Topics Relevant to Jail Design and Costs: Local Option Tax & Special Purpose Tax

  • Kenny Whipker is still the Southern jail inspector for Indiana.  Lee Hoard, however, has retired as the Northern jail inspector.  He has taken a part time position with DLZ architects.  The new inspector is Chance Sweat who was the juvenile inspector prior to taking this position.  (


  • The inflation rate for jails is surpassing that of conventional inflation.  We believe it is tracking at a rate of 7-10% annually.  There are probably several factors accounting for this.  One is the limited suppliers of jail products in the market place, and two, the limited correctional contractors, both working to keep up with jail construction demands.   Couple this with contractors in general being very busy.  They can afford to be very selective on which projects they pursue, and a jail is not on the easy side of the ledger.  The newest jail in Indiana, Adams County, had a bed cost of about $80,000.  Newly bid jails have bed costs as high as $140,000.


  • Smaller jails, 150 beds or less, are proportionally more expensive than larger jails of the 200+ bed range.  This is caused by the cost of the infrastructure of the jails.  i.e. a kitchen that is required to feed 100 inmates can also feed 200 inmates.   So a 100 bed jail could cost as much as fifty percent more than a larger one.


  • Due to the enacted LOT laws of last legislative year, many counties are starting to take advantage of the spread potential between what they have in place now and the 2.5% allowed.  However, as you know, any ordinance enacted at the county level on income must be shared with the other certified shareholders in the county.  Most counties receive about 45 percent of the income.  So to pay for a jail takes more percentage to offset the shared amount.  Some counties have gotten those stakeholders to waive their share and thus significantly lowering the amount of tax needed.


  • One county was turned down at the state level for a “Special Purpose Tax” because they had not yet taken advantage of the spread potential.  It is a little confusing on this option.  On the surface it would seem that if you do go for a special purpose tax it would be for only that percentage needed over and above the 2.5%.  At the same time there have been counties that have gotten the tax and not used up their option.  This is where your bond council and financial advisor can lead the county through this mine field.


  • Some counties have gotten a “Special Purpose Tax” passed but have a range of percentage options.  The councils in these cases should be given a “best guess” on the annual costs anticipated so the ordinance can be as close to that needed as possible.  Remember, annual costs are bond retirement, operational costs, staffing costs, and any bond reserve or coverage needed.


  • Most counties vying for a special tax have used firms like Barnes Thornburg or Ice Miller to write, submit and then lobby for its success.  One county did this for themselves and were successful.  Normally these bills should be submitted in late November but at least one county found an existing bill and attached theirs to it and made it through.


  • We think that the 1006 bill’s effect on most counties has settled to an understandable level.


  • Home Land Security has yet to call any counties with a check book in hand!


  • One county recently received a “non-compliance” letter from the D.O.C.  It gave the county six months to show progress via a study to comply with the letter.  In this case the county asked the N.I.C. National Institute of Corrections to do a study.  They are bit slow and they will not speculate on size needed or cost but it will validate the need.


  • Most jails currently designed have a work release included and some with community corrections in the administration areas.  Remember that the sheriff, by statute, runs the work release.


  • In most situations the public is interested in three things: where, why and how much.  And the where trumps the other two.


  • Always check the credentials of the firms you hirer.  If you do not check and they know you rarely do, they therefore say anything they want to get the project.


Previous newsletter spoke to other ongoing issues which I will not reiterate here.  Should any of you need a deeper explanation of the “Process of a Jail” let me know.  I would be happy to give a generic seminar to the public or jail committees any time.  It seems to be an agonizingly slow process especially for the sheriff that has to deal with the problem day in and day out.  But if the need is there they will get built sooner or later.