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Proposal made to reopen shuttered Hardin County Work Camp as multi-county jail

Carbondale Southern Illinoisan

Tuesday, September 11, 2018  |  Article  |  by ISAAC SMITH The Southern

Corrections (74) Fowler, Dale--State Senate, 59 , Phelps-Finnie, Natalie–State House, 118

CAVE-IN-ROCK — The old Hardin County Work Camp could see new life if efforts by the county’s sheriff are successful.

Sheriff Jerry Fricker said about three to four months ago, through discussion with several members of law enforcement, it became apparent that repurposing the old minimum security facility as the county’s jail was a real possibility. He said the current Hardin County facility only has six beds, which is large compared to some neighboring counties.

“If we were able to come up with a bigger facility, it wouldn’t only help us but neither Pope nor Gallatin County has a jail at this time,” he said, adding that they would have the option to use the new Hardin County facility as it's proposed.

Fricker said the renovated facility would house between 75 and 100 beds, which could be also be a revenue generator.

“Normally a county will pay $35 a day to house an inmate at the state level,” he said. Fricker also said they have considered housing some federal inmates, which would provide almost double the daily state rate.

As with any major project, there is one key item: Money.

“That is our biggest hurdle at this time; the money to get the building fixed,” Fricker said. The old minimum security facility, which shuttered in late 2015 from a funding shortage, will need to be updated to increase security and meet state mandates for jails, Fricker said.

However, Fricker said support has been huge at the state and federal level with local legislators like State Rep. Natalie Phelps Finnie, D-Harrisburg, and State Sen. Dale Fowler, R-Harrisburg, as well as U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth jumping on board.

In a news release, Fowler was enthusiastic about the proposed repurposing, believing that it could bring back a much-needed economic engine to that part of the state.

“The push to reopen this facility is a great opportunity for Southern Illinois, creating jobs and providing a critical service to Hardin and surrounding counties,” Fowler said in the release.

Fricker said there isn’t a final price tag for the proposed new jail. But, he said crews have been scheduled to come out and start the bidding process soon.

Fricker did say that by all accounts, with the addition of 20 jobs and the operational costs associated, the new jail shouldn’t hurt taxpayers.

“Everything that we have figured up at this time it looks like it’s going to be self-sufficient,” he said. Part of this is achieved by the money generated by housing other counties’ inmates.