Hancock County Sheriff’s Office looks to turn semi-trailers into jail overcrowding solution

GREENFIELD, Ind. – Across the state, county jails are dealing with overcrowding, but the Hancock County Sheriff's Office is looking into a temporary solution it says could be a first of its kind for the state.

Following the failure of a referendum to build a new jail, the sheriff's office wants to turn semi-trailers into jail space.

"My focus is relieving the pressure we currently have," Chief Deputy Brad Burkhart said.

Burkhart said overcrowding can be a safety issue. Thursday, the jail had 224 inmates in the facility--it's designed to accommodate 157. They've also sent inmates to other locations. He said using semi-trailers could house more than 100 inmates. A company based in Missouri builds them.

"When you walk into that structure you don't even know that you're standing inside a trailer, it looks like you're inside of a regular jail," he said.

Burkhart visited another law enforcement agency in Springfield, Missouri, last month to see the structure in use.

"The interior is converted into jail cells that are bunk-style systems with showers and bathrooms and every type of amenity that is necessary to actually house those inmates, so it is a secure facility in itself," he said.

Burkhart wants to put them in a parking lot next to the jail. He said the trailers are secured to the ground, would require about 12 more staff members, could cost somewhere in the range of $5 million and open up more resources for therapy and addiction help.

"We're not the only one feeling this pressure, many jails, many counties throughout the state of Indiana are seeing the same effects as we are and we're all over crowded," Burkhart said.

The county still needs to approve the plan.