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Hancock County Plan To House Inmates In Semitrailers Moves Forward

The jail is designed to house up to 157 inmates, but often holds well over 200 (Zach Herndon, WFIU/WTIU News).

A proposal to build a temporary inmate housing facility with semitrailers in Hancock County is moving forward.

The county says it’s necessary to alleviate jail overcrowding. There are 241 inmates in the Hancock County jail, but it’s only designed to house 160.

The county asked taxpayers to help foot the bill for a new, $55 million jail to address the problem. But, they voted the referendum down in May.

The facility will be made up of 20 semitrailers (Courtesy Hancock County Sheriff's Department).

Jail Commander Keith Oliver says now they want to hire a Missouri company to build a temporary housing facility out of 20 semi trailers. It will sit off U.S. 40 and essentially function as a second, smaller jail. 

Oliver says the county will house up to 146 minimum and medium security offenders there. 

"This is going to be an open dorm concept," Oliver says. "So, our staff members will have a control room where they can look and observe both sides, and there will be a dividing wall that divides the two classifications."

He says after seeing the trailers during a visit to Missouri, he's confident they're secure. And, he says the county is forced to consider this option while it tries to figure out other ways to fund a new jail. They plan to build one eventually, but say they can't wait to address the overcrowding. 

"That’s the thing we’re looking at is, 'What can we do now' so we don’t get ourselves in some sort of federal lawsuit and end up paying dearly."

Construction could cost up to $9 million. The county council wants to use bonds to fund the project. It approved 16 staff positions for the facility during a meeting Wednesday.

The county could again ask taxpayers to help fund a new jail, but must wait two years before bringing another referendum forward. 

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