VANDERBURGH COUNTY, Ind. (WEHT) – For several years, Vanderburgh County Sheriff Dave Wedding has been pushing for an expansion to the county jail to be built. He says it has been overcrowded since its opening in 2008. He says they have had to resort to transferring inmates to other jails around the Tri-State.
“Currently we have over 130 inmates housed in five different jails,” said Sheriff Wedding. “We have them housed in Kentucky, Illinois, parts of Indiana. It’s a logistical nightmare.”
Vanderburgh County Commissioner Jeff Hatfield has been a supporter of the expansion, advocating with Wedding in front of the County Council on Wednesday. He says overcrowding is a safety issue.
“When you have an overcrowded jail, you put people at risk,” said Commissioner Hatfield. “You put the people who have been arrested at risk, and you put the workers at the jail at risk. So [it’s] a basic human right need of making sure that it’s a safe jail that’s big enough for everyone that works there and is held there.”
The expansion would also ensure that women and juveniles would have their own sections.
“All those folks need segregated out and you have to have space for them,” added Hatfield. “To me it’s a human rights issue.”
Sheriff Wedding estimates that a new expansion building would cost roughly $13-15 million. But, he says each time an inmate is sent to another county, Vanderburgh County pays close to $40 per day per inmate for their custody.
“You’re talking about 1.5 million or more,” added Wedding. “And that’s an annual expense. That’s just raw housing, that’s not logistical costs of moving them to and from.”
The County Council was in favor of the budget and the expansion project without raising taxes, sending it to the County Commission for approval next.
Hatfield says he “intend[s] to support it and hopefully one or both of my colleagues will too.”
If approved, Sheriff Wedding says he would like to see the groundbreaking sometime in the fall.