Hamilton County leaders in a stalemate over jail expansion, future of juvenile services center

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. - Hamilton County leaders are in a stalemate over the future of the juvenile services center, which has taken center stage during discussions about a possible jail expansion.

Members of the Hamilton County Council want to see the center transformed into a facility that could house adult inmates to ease overcrowding at the main jail.

However, the sheriff and county commissioners are committed to keeping the juvenile center running as well as expanding at the main jail.

“We send those kids out to other facilities in other communities and we don’t know what kind of treatment they are getting and what kind of programming they are getting," Hamilton County Sheriff Mark Bowen said.

“We are the fiscal body. Our responsibility is taxpayer dollars," Hamilton County Council Member Fred Glynn said. "We are pretty united on this one."

The council feels that it is fiscally irresponsible to keep the juvenile center open, Glynn added.

The center, built about a decade ago, costs upwards of $2 million a year to operate and in the first half of 2016, averaged seven kids a day in its secure housing area. Sheriff Bowen said it would cost around $500,000 a year to ship juveniles to different detention centers around the state if the center closed.

“The point is that we’ve given it 10 years and the numbers have not been there to justify it," County Council Member Rick McKinney said.

"This is one of the first times that I’ve been here where you have a completely united council," Glynn said. "So that should say something to the commissioners and the sheriff.”

In addition to keeping the juvenile center open, Sheriff Bowen is asking the council for $12 million to build 240 more beds and a new cafeteria at the community corrections building located next to the jail.

Glynn said everyone on the council agrees the jail needs more beds, but not on the number of beds.

"I don’t not want to build a 240 beds... I'm pretty firm on that," Glynn said.

These discussions took place during the Hamilton County Council's annual budget meetings. Discussions are scheduled to wrap up Friday and the sheriff is scheduled to be back before the council Thursday morning.

"I'm not sure how this is going to turn out tomorrow, obviously we need to have a discussion but you’re right we need to come to some type of consensus so we can move forward and get this done," Glynn said.