Jail security officer Kevin Calvert monitors the jail from a security room post that he cannot leave. (Courier staff photo by Tali Hunt)
Jail security officer Kevin Calvert monitors the jail from a security room post that he cannot leave. (Courier staff photo by Tali Hunt)
The nerve center of the Jefferson County Jail’s security and major operations takes place from the control room in the physical center of the area where the general population is housed. There is a jail officer posted inside the control room 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year to keep watch.

From this room, the officer on duty controls the doors — unlocking one at a time to allow staff or working inmates through, and what lights are on or off inside the facility and more.

This is the only officer who can speak directly with inmates on a 24/7 basis because their requests come to the control room from phones in the housing units.

Only one door can be opened at a time throughout the jail halls. If the duty officer in the security center sees problems in an area, the officer cannot leave the control room post to go to the area of the problem. Eyes must remain on the totality of the jail at all times.

Another task — not nearly as lofty as those above — has been added to the duty list. This officer also now must flush the toilets in the cells because inmates discovered they could clog toilets, causing flooding through the floor into the next level of the facility, an action that was taken too many times.

In September 2017, Jefferson County commissioners and council members were given 180 days to develop a plan of action after an annual inspection in August found several areas of noncompliance within Indiana Jail Standards.

Since that time, Sheriff’s Department officials, Jefferson County commissions and members of the Jefferson County Council have wrestled with how to address the problems.

In September 2018, consultants presented to county officials a feasibility study of needs. That report noted that within the previous nine months, the Jefferson County Jail had an Average Daily Population (ADP) of more than 150. As of August 2018, about 157 were housed in the jail, which has a detention housing capacity of 109 rated beds. Over the last 10 years, the jail has seen a 200 percent increase in its ADP. In 2017, the ADP totaled 140.

That ADP number also makes it impossible for the county to be in compliance with the state-mandated ratio of one jail employee to every 12 inmates. The jail was allocated for 18 floor officers and 5 support officers for 2019. As of March 1, 2019, there were three floor officer vacancies.

The report also noted the rising population trends are expected to continue. Earlier this year, the jail’s population during one day hit 180.

County officials recently conducted two public meetings to try to answer questions and to listen to concerns about what needs to happen.

Last Tuesday Madison Courier staff members were given a tour of the jail to provide the public with a look inside the facility at what the numbers and concerns mean in terms of day-to-day operations. Those photographs and the explanations of what is happening are on Pages A4,5.