Hancock County to build temporary jail out of semi trailers

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GREENFIELD, Ind. (WTHR) - Bunks beds are stacked in the cell block day rooms and mattresses nearly cover the walking floor space. Overcrowding at the Hancock County jail is an ongoing serious problem.

Voters turned down a referendum in May to pay for a new jail. So county officials have come up with a unique solution to build a temporary jail.

Hancock County jail commander Captain Keith Oliver gave Eyewitness News a tour of the jail Friday.

"So, this is B Block,” said Captain Oliver, opening the door to room full of inmates watching television or trying to sleep. “This one here is obviously meant to hold fewer. We’ve got 18 people that are supposed to be sleeping in here. Currently there's 30."

“It’s Ridiculous. You can't even walk,” said inmate Logan Neace.

The Hancock County jail had 239 inmates Friday in a facility with a 157-bed capacity. The county is paying for 58 more inmates to be housed in other county jails at a rate of $35 a day.

"A lot of fights happen in the jail when you're overcrowded,” said Captain Oliver. “Inmates are upset. It tends to cause problems for the staff trying to move inmates and trying to figure out where people can go as far as proper classification.”

"There's people everywhere bumping into people,” said Neace. “You're already in a bad mood because you're stressed out."

The plan to relieve the overcrowding stress is a first of its kind in Indiana temporary jail built by attaching semitrailers. Hancock County officials visited a similar facility in Greene County, Missouri.

"These are basically semitrailers that are welded together,” said Captain Oliver. “They're secure. They're doors that they weld on. So, it's a nice way to store some inmates to keep them until we can figure out our big solution, which is building a new jail."

The temporary jail will be built by attaching 20 semitrailers, with room for up to 146 male inmates requiring minimum or medium security. The project cost estimate is between $7.5 and $8.5 million. The facility will sit in a what is currently a soybean field on U.S. Highway 40 two miles east of the current downtown jail.

"I think anything to change what's going on in there right now would be positive,” said inmate Daniel Jefferson. “It has to help because we need more space.”

Hancock County hopes to have the new jail operational in about six months with a staff of 16 officers.

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