Champaign County Board To Look At Jail Consolidation Proposal Thursday Night

The Champaign County Jail in downtown Urbana, which would close under a proposed 1/4 cent sales tax proposal that could go before voters this fall.

The Champaign County Jail and Sheriff's Dept. in downtown Urbana, which would close and consolidated with the satellite jail, under plans to be considered by the county board Thursday night.

Jeff Bossert/Illinois Public Media

The Champaign County Board will discuss a new report Thursday evening on proposals to consolidate its county jail operations into a single building. That discussion is expected to be the first of several before a decision is reached on the county jail’s future.

Champaign County officials want to close their older, rundown jail in downtown Urbana, and move inmates to the satellite jail on the east side of the city. The satellite jail would be enlarged and modernized to become the county’s sole jail facility. A report from the Champaign-based architectural consulting firm of Reifsteck Reid details options for the project, which could also include moving the county sheriff’s office from downtown to the satellite jail site.

That total cost and the project’s scope could be reduced by the county board, especially in light of the voter’s rejection in 2016 of a referendum to pay for county facilities projects, including a previous jail plan. That referendum was opposed by critics who feared the result would be a larger jail that would allow the jailing of more people --- especially people of color --- unnecessarily.

Democrat Mike Ingram, who’s on the Facilities Committee, thinks the county board will decide to scale the jail project back, or break it into phases. That’s due to the cost, estimated by the consultants at $47 million.

“I can’t imagine that that would be popular in the Republican caucus, much less in the Democratic caucus,” said Ingram. “And I can’t imagine any of them wanting to go out and try to sell that amount of money.”

Republican committee member Jon Rector agrees. But he and Ingram both said the project is needed, so that the county’s older downtown jail can close, and the remaining satellite jail can be modernized.

“A lot of the time, prisoners have to be separated,” said Rector, “and the current satellite facility isn’t conducive for that”

Rector and Ingram point out proposals in the Reifsteck Reid report for space in the jail for medical and mental health care. Ingram said he want to prioritize those facility upgrades if the overall cost of the jail plans are reduced.

Whatever the county board decides, County Executive Darlene Kloeppel thinks it will take more than one meeting, in order to weigh all the input from county board members and the public.

“I do think they still would like to get community input,” said Kloeppel. “They may even have a study session about this, before they make a final decision.”

And Kloeppel said even the county board's final decision on a jail plan would not be the final word. She said the county board Finance Committee would then discuss how to raise the money for the project.

The Champaign County Board meets at 6:30 PM on Thursday at the county’s Brookens Administrative Center at the corner of Lierman and Washington in Urbana. The Brookens building is located next to the satellite jail.

Story source: WILL