Jail Construction Changes: Costs, Renting Beds, Architect Selection, Mental Illness

As you approach the possibility of jail construction you should know what changes are happening along the way.  CCi stays in front of all the issues affecting your decisions.


  • In spite of the brisk market in jails nationwide, the number of suppliers of jail specific products is decreasing. It is problematic that the costs are therefore going up, but perhaps more critical is the ability to get the product in the first place.  This will change of course with time.   About 40% of the cost of a jail is in jail specific materials.  Allowing any contractor to supply and install a specific jail product without proper vetting is a huge mistake.  Electronic door controls have limited suppliers and accounts for about 5%.

Jail construction cost is rising at an alarming rate.  This is caused by two factors: 1. The number of suppliers of jail related materials 2. The demand on that limited supply chain given all the jails under construction nationally.   Remember that 40% of the construction cost is in materials used only in corrections.

There is a new security door supplier on line now, and there will soon be another steel cell supplier.  However, we are now recently down to only one security window manufacturer.


  • DEC’s-Detention Equipment Contractors are very limited and to not properly vet them is even worse mistake.


  • There are currently about 20-23 counties that have an interest in building a new jail. Of course, money is the driving force.  So far, all of the counties that have decided to discuss a jail are hoping that some form of the new LOT taxes will fund a jail.  A number of them still need to go to the state legislature, since the percentage balance of what they now have in place, coupled with the sharing of the tax within the counties with other certified shares, would require something over the 2.5% limit.  Two counties have just submitted, for this legislative session, bills to increase their income tax.  It’s a long session and that apparently gives them this latitude.


  • The sooner a council can pass the income tax ordinance the less interest is paid and the smaller the bond. To do this prior to bids received takes very specific knowledge of all the factors of cost and time.


  • Only one jail currently has a law suit underway that will most likely cause new construction.


  • We have never seen a federal judge insist on anything but new construction following ACA guidelines.



  • You cannot pay for a jail bed by renting it to another county at $35/day, so building extras on that basis is not a good idea. You can however rent a bed intended for your own growth.  Home Land Security (and other agencies) is looking for short term beds I am told.  The number that is being talked about is $80/day.  No one so far has any inmates or contract with Home Land Security that we know of.


  • Some of the state legislators think that the maximum requested amount should not exceed 0.65%. That is the highest percentage approved so far but I do not believe there is a legal limit.


  • The most recent jail built in Indiana is Adams County (Decatur) and it’s per bed cost was about $80,000. Due to the shortage of material and the work load of contractors we are now anticipating bed costs over $100,000.  This is certainly true given the time it would take to get you to bid.  The inflation rate on a jail is significantly higher than conventional items.


  • HB 1006 has had an effect on the jail populations, more so in the larger communities.


  • There are three types of cell construction: grouted block (expensive/heavy and slow), Panelized steel (long term finish issues, lack of quality assembling), and prefabricated steel cells (most currently used, competition issue).



  • With the available jail work out of state architects are starting to try and get a foot hold in Indiana. One from Cleveland and one from Chicago (H2M and HOK).  However, most commissioners feel and rightly so, that Indiana firms can handle this work.  RQAW (Eric Weflen), DLZ (Eric Ratts) and Elevatus (Tony Vie) do and have done most of the jail work in Indiana.  Construction companies also want to become construction managers but in every case have no jail experience as P/M’s or C/M’s


  • Strange but there is little or no vetting of firms prior to hiring them.


  • There are a number of jails in Indiana that were designed and/or built by firms that had little or no experience in jails. In some instances this had a horrible political and financial result.  In others, the jails simple do not function at a level that minimizes costs.


  • Very few jails constructed in the 70’s, 80’s and even some in the 90’s were constructed for growth.


  • Most owners have to understand that there are three things that have to be funded out of the annual income: bond payments, additional operating costs, and additional staffing. And financial advisors allow for what they refer to as “coverage”.  This is a reserve held back year to year in case the income of county goes down for some reason.


  • In computing your annual needs for the tax rate, you will need an experienced firm that knows the numbers and how a financial advisors puts a budget together.


  • There is fear that the state is not done yet passing off state inmates. Level 6 today level 5 eventually?



  • We have been overseeing the design, bidding and construction of jails since 1980. In all that time there has been little if any thought given specifically to the mentally ill which have and are becoming a major part of any jail problem


  • No study done should show a soft cost of anything less than 30% of construction cost. Preferably 33%.


As things change in the jail market I will send relevant information.   Should anyone want me to present the “Process of Getting a Jail” or “Costs of Jails” let me know.  I have done these both nationally and state wide.