Madison County’s population continues to grow, as does the number of inmates at the Madison County Detention Center.

More subdivisions are being built and more industries are coming to the area to support more residents, but preparing the jail to hold additional inmates, such as the 45 or 50 who are sleeping on the floors at the moment, depends on the taxpayers and grant funding.

District 1 Magistrate Larry Combs said in January that the expansion of the detention center should be one of the biggest priorities of 2007.

“We’ve dodged the bullet too many times and I feel it’s eventually going to catch up with us,” Combs said. “It’s not fair to our jailer to ask him to keep 250 prisoners when we only have 180 or 190 beds.”

It costs $255 per square foot to built a jail or to expand while meeting all state and federal requirements, said Madison Judge-Executive Kent Clark.

“It’s going to be a little over $7 million and there’s no way we can afford that right now,” Clark said. “We’re considering alternative options such as maybe doing 100 beds now and design it to where more could be added in the future,” he said. “I also have to try to get some funding (from state and federal governments).”

Madison Fiscal Court was considering working on expansion plans about two years ago, he said.

“It got put on the back burner when we started on the (county courthouse) annex,” Clark said. “We have some preliminary plans showing how we would do it.”

Instead of being entirely relocated, the jail’s expansion would be to the original facility.

“We really need about 180 more beds,” he said. These would be in addition to the 195 beds already being used at the detention center.

“It’s much more dangerous in overcrowded cells,” said Madison County Jailer Ron Devere. “It also puts my staff in a bad position. I would like to see the facility have about 200 beds. There are only five visitation booths for the 250 inmates housed at the detention center.

“We would like to have about 20 visitation booths so that we could have visitation more often,” he said.

There has been mention of adding only 100 extra beds, he said. “That won’t last two years at the most. They need to build something they’re not going to have to (expand) in the years to come.”

The Madison County Detention Center lost a large amount of funding last year when juveniles no longer could be housed at the facility.

“That’s will total about a $160,000 loss,” Devere said.

Last year, the county received $94 per (juvenile) inmate per day and Devere said the funding would he difficult to replace.

In January, Madison County was ruled exempt from a state policy that required juvenile inmates to be confined separately from adults.

Even though the law demands that the two groups be separated, the Madison County Detention Center passed several previous inspections that deemed the facility capable of keeping the juveniles completely separated, of both sight and sound, from the general population inmates.

Devere said he realizes he may no longer be Madison County jailer when the expansion is complete, but that he wants to work as hard as he can to make any improvements while he is serving in the position.

“I would like to leave behind something that’s manageable,” Devere said. “I want to know that someone’s not going to come in here and face the same things I’m facing now.”

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