ONAWA, Iowa (KCAU) — Since 2017, Monona County has been pushing for a new jail to host their overcrowded inmates. They’re one step closer to getting that majority vote as voters will decide in less than a week on whether or not to build a new, $6.2 million jail in Monona County.
The 46-year-old Monona County Jail in Onawa only holds a dozen inmates. Sheriff Jeff Pratt says that they’ve run out of space.
“We are meeting our capacity on a monthly basis and the jail inspector has noted that we are over capacity most of the time and that we have the inability to classify inmates,” said Pratt.
The lack of space forces officials to house violent offenders with non-violent inmates in the same cell.
Pratt said they need about three times as many beds to operate safely.
“You just don’t want to put somebody in a cell and get them hurt, so that is the problem. The other problem is, we have a linear style jail meaning that we have a cell block and a hallway on the outside, so when my staff members go to move somebody they physically have to go back and unlock the cell and move them,” said Pratt.
Supporters of the jail project say it would save the county money in the long run.
“It’s a dire need. We spent about the last four years since 2017 reviewing all the different options for the new jail. The new jail is the most economic and efficient for our tax dollars. It keeps the county money in the county versus shipping inmates across the county lines and our Monona County dollars in the county,” said committee member Brent McCall.
“The goal of us was to get the best bang for the buck for the community, for the county,” said committee member Rob Meyer.
Meyer says the county spends a lot of money transferring inmates to jails in other counties.
“We went back and revisited all the options that we had, the four different options, transport, or add on or just start new. In our option, the cheapest option was to rebuild,” said Meyer.
The county will be voting next Tuesday.