Metro-East News

Madison County committees plan ‘scaled-back’ jail renovation

The price tag just to meet building codes for the Madison County Jail will be $9.3 million, but it won’t address issues like the infirmary and sallyport, county officials said Monday.

A joint meeting of the buildings and facilities management committee and judiciary committee heard the proposed “scaled-back” proposal from AAIC Inc. on reworking the jail renovation plan. The jail, originally built to house 100 inmates, now averages 279 inmates per day. It no longer meets building codes of 2006, according to the architects, including requirements for sprinklers and a smoke evacuation system in the cells. The plumbing, electrical system, sewer pipes and even the motors on the doors in the cell blocks are all obsolete and either break down regularly or need regular replacement, according to jail officials.

The original plan was to address all the code compliance and infrastructure problems, as well as renovations and expansions to support services like the kitchen, infirmary, visiting area and sallyport that were not expanded when the jail’s population was tripled. That $18.8 million plan was to be funded through jail bonds, but a voter referendum authorizing the bonds failed in 2013.

The kitchen currently houses much of its food in a trailer on the parking lot, and the infirmary does not have a sick cell, so sick prisoners are put into solitary confinement if it is available, or back into the general population if it is not, and at any time the jail may have a number of inmates going through drug detoxification. The original plan was to expand both facilities, but they have been cut from the new plan.

The sallyport is the secured garage for inmate processing, and was a significant concern for board members in the committee meeting. A police car pulls into the jail’s sallyport, and the garage door is secured behind them before the car doors open. Then the inmate is removed from the car and taken into the jail for fingerprinting and other processing. Madison County’s jail has only one sallyport, which means that at high volume times such as late Friday nights, police cars from across the county are waiting in line or driving around the block for extended periods of time waiting for their turn to deliver inmates.

“During prime time ... those police cars are backed up waiting instead of going back out on the street,” said county administrator Joe Parente.

However, the sallyport relocation and expansion also was cut from the project.“We didn’t get the opportunity to finance the project,” Parente said, so they asked AAIC to focus on scaling back the project just to infrastructure and code compliance.

The new project involves going cellblock by cellblock and replacing the plumbing and electrical work. The cast-iron pipes in many of the cellblocks have seriously deteriorated, according to AAIC architect Mark Niemeyer, and some pipes have sprayed water up inside the walls, which now will have to be sandblasted and replaced with steel plating. The project will install sprinklers and a smoke evacuation system, as well as a modular air-handling system that can be expanded upon if the county does eventually expand the jail.

Parente said the jail passes all its inspections by the Illinois Department of Corrections. However, he said, they may just flush a toilet and make sure it flushes; they’re not checking the pipes. “The systems are going to fail, the plumbing will continue to fail, and we will have lawsuits from failing to meet code,” he said.

Several county board members indicated a concern about not addressing the sallyport problem. But AAIC architect Cal Morris said they cannot just renovate the sallyport without also relocating and expanding the booking area, which would bring them right back up to $18 million.

Parente said they have been setting aside the $1.5 million they would have paid for the jail bonds for the last year and a half, and will continue to do so. Other sources of funds will include $600,000 pending from the city of Edwardsville for its purchase of the former Shelter Care Home property, and some capital improvement funds - although the county also has to pay $2 million for an air-handling-system replacement at the county courthouse, Parente said.

The scaled-back plan will cost $9.33 million, and will take about 18 months, including engineering, bids and doing the renovations one cellblock at a time.

Major Jeff Connor with the Madison County Sheriff’s Department said they will have contingency plans in place for housing inmates if the jail population is too high while a cellblock is shut down. He also said the prequalifications on the bidding contractors will include safety measures on workers to ensure their safety and continued security of the inmates during construction.

Parente and Madison County Chairman Alan Dunstan said while this could be a “phase I” of a project, there are no immediate plans for phase II, addressing the issues of the infirmary, kitchen and sallyport. “We simply don’t have the money,” Dunstan said. “I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to do the future additions.”

No vote was taken by the committees Monday. Some members suggested a special county board meeting to present the new plan to the entire board. Dunstan said he hoped to be in a position to go forward in July.

Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at or 618-239-2507.