SULLIVAN, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV)– Sullivan County Sheriff Clark Cottom put it bluntly when asked why the county needs a new jail.
“We had 120 inmates in a building that was designed for 34 inmates.”
The groundbreaking for the new jail took place on Monday morning, a landmark in the progress for the new facility, which is projected to cost about $39 million.
Sheriff Cottom said the new jail will have room for about 190 inmates, and the building will also be home to the sheriff’s office and the dispatch office. He says the additional capacity was needed, as it cost taxpayers when the jail needed to send inmates to other counties.
“We’ve hauled inmates clear of the Ohio River to try and find a bed for them. This will bring those inmates back,” Cottom said. “That scenario alone is costing this county between three and five hundred thousand dollars per year, housing inmates in other counties.”
He also said he hopes it will provide helpful resources to inmates.
“This new facility is going to allow us to separate inmates into those who are needing certain types of rehabilitation,” he said. “We can retrain people, have classes and education. Help people get their drivers license back. Help people get a high school diploma.”
President of the Sullivan County Commissioners Robert Davis said the groundbreaking was a weight off of his shoulders.
“It’s a welcome relief, I feel like it’s the culmination of three years of efforts by a lot of people,” Davis said.
Davis said the greatest relief will come when the jail is finished, which is expected to take about 18 months.
Cottom, whose time as sheriff will come to an end after the election in November, said building the new jail is part of the goal he set for himself when he took office in 2014.
“When I came into the sheriff’s office, I had made myself a commitment. A promise to leave this place in better shape than it was when I found it. And I believe I have done so,” Cottom said.
Plans for what will happen to the current jail have not been finalized.