Switzerland County jail holds open house, county prisoners now being housed locally

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For years elected officials from Switzerland County have been battling enormous bills from other cities and counties as payment for housing county prisoners. With no jail here, officers here have had to transport prisoners to other jails for holding. This has not only cost the county a per day fee; but also the time it takes for sheriff’s officers to transport prisoners back and forth; and travel expenses.

That all changed this past weekend, as the new Switzerland County jail was officially opened to the public with an open house on Saturday afternoon.

After a ribbon cutting ceremony, visitors had the chance to tour the new jail; while also houses the 911 communications office. There is office space for Indiana State Police troopers who may need to do work here; the Indiana Conservation officer; and for Sheriff Nathan Hughes and each of his deputies.

There are also kitchen facilities; and cells for both male and female prisoners. Security is high tech and top of the line; providing the element of safety for town and county residents.

Saturday’s open house was well attended, and curious residents took their time going through each of the areas, getting information and asking questions from sheriff’s department personnel.

“I figure that there more than 500 people go through the new jail,” Sheriff Hughes said. “It was a really good turnout from the community. We invite anyone who wants to see the facility to stop by the office. This is something that the entire county can be really proud of.”

If other county residents do want to tour the jail, they won’t have as full access to the facility as those on Saturday.

Prisoners have arrived.

“We’ve currently got seven prisoners being held here,” the sheriff said. “Right now things are running very smoothly. It’s a big change for our staff, because there hasn’t been an operating jail in this county for years; but our deputies and jailers have gone to a lot of training, and we’re very prepared to operate this jail.”

The jail itself features a lot of the latest technology, from video systems that allow inmates to talk with visitors without face-to-face contact; to a cell monitoring system that allows one jailer to monitor the entire facility from a central location.

The cells and other areas open to prisoners are nearly indestructible, cutting down on maintenance expenses; and all sorts of safe guards are in place to protect the citizens of the community.

There are areas to house general prisoners who are evaluated to be non-violent; a section to hold female prisoners; and some maximum security cells if dangerous criminals are brought here.

Sheriff Hughes said that inspectors gave the jail a “certificate of occupancy” late last week after touring the facility; and the sheriff said that state jail inspectors are due here today (Thursday) to officially go through the jail and certify it to be opened.

“We’ve done everything that the state has asked us to do,” Nathan Hughes said. “We see no problems in getting the final go-ahead. We’re ready to go.”

Saturday’s ceremonies featured many county elected officials; along with state representative Bob Bischoff and State Senator Jim Lewis. Speeches were made, plaques of appreciation were handed out, and a ribbon was cut signaling the opening of not only the new jail; but also the new courthouse expansion that has been built at the same time as the jail.

As part of the jail open house, the Vevay Kiwanis Club held a fundraising event that allowed people in the county to have others “arrested” and put in one of the new jail cells. The “convicts” were then allowed to phone friends and family members to raise their “bail money” — with all proceeds going to the Kiwanis to help fund community service projects for the club.