Special City Council committee begins look at Downtown jail, police facilities

Special City Council committee begins look at Downtown jail, police facilities

An organizational meeting Aug. 16 of the Jacksonville City Council’s Special Committee to Review JSO Primary Facilities created five subcommittees to study short-term needs for the jail and police headquarters building Downtown as well as specifics for a new jail and administrative facility.

The Duval County jail is at 500 E. Adams St. and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Police Memorial Building is at 501 E. Bay St.

Whether to keep the jail and police headquarters or move them from the Downtown Northbank to open the property for redevelopment, has been a topic for years.

The Special Committee of the Council to Review JSO Primary Facilities is devoting a year to studying immediate and future needs. From left, Councill members Ron Salem, Rahman Johnson, Michael Boylan, Randy White, Chris Miller and Jimmy Peluso.

Photo by Dan Macdonald

The special committee comprises Council members Michael Boylan, who is chair, Randy White, Rahman Johnson, Chris Miller and Jimmy Peluso.

Council President Ron Salem attended the meeting at City Hall and addressed the need for upgrades to the existing jail and police memorial building as well as determining what will be needed to build a new jail.

“We have a jail that is 30-plus years old and it needs to be replaced,” Salem said.

“I think it is a critical need for this community and it has been talked about for years and nothing has been moved on it.”

He said that a new jail would not be built this year. The committee’s task is to collect information to allow for a request for proposals to be crafted next year.

Members of the JSO and its Department of Corrections spoke about the need to solve flooding, plumbing, electrical, air conditioning, overcrowding and parking problems in the existing facilities.

Boylan established five subcommittees and named a Council member to chair each one:

• Intake, Adjudication and Recidivism: Peluso

• Improvements: White

• Extended Diverse Detention (housing of women and juveniles): Miller

• Behavior and Mental Health Services: Johnson

• Administrative Offices: Boylan

Each chair will look for subject experts to gather data.

Boylan said he wants to defer discussion on where a new jail would be built.

“I want to keep the location out of the committee for now,” he said.

“I think clearly it is a conversation we’ll need to have near the end of the process and then make a determination.”

Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Assistant Chief Scott Dingee told the Jacksonville City Council’s Special Committee to Review JSO Primary Facilities of the flooding problems in the Police Memorial Building.

Photo by Dan Macdonald

Committee members had a chance to tour the jail before the meeting.

The jail – The John E. Goode Pre-Trial Detention Facility – opened in 1991. 

It originally was meant to hold 2,100. Today it has a population of 2,600. At one point last year, it detained a population of 3,600. 

Cells built to hold two people are now holding three and have been since 2008.

The jail was initially built for pre-trial detention. As of July, there were 100 unsentenced felons incarcerated for more than 365 days and 21 sentenced felons who have been held for more than a year, according to Josh Benoit, chief of Prisons Division.

The seven-story structure is 629,000 square feet. Though it employs 384 detention deputies and about 80 civilian employees, it only has 250 parking spaces.

An immediate problem is the outdated HVAC system, Benoit said. Last year a chiller had to be replaced at a cost of $325,000. Because of the number of people confined, heat and humidity immediately rise when there are HVAC problems and mold can quickly become an issue.

Plumbing and sewage systems also are in regular need of repair. Over the past month, offices flooded twice, resulting in thousands of dollars of damage, according to the JSO report.

The administrative building has similar problems, JSO Assistant Chief Scott Dingee said. 

Flooding recently disabled the JSO nonemergency phones. Computer servers used for the Main Street Bridge and other city structures are at risk for flood damage, he said.

While the roof was recently replaced, damaged skylights will cost $120,000 to fix. Its HVAC system needed $600,000 in repairs. The building is not ADA compliant and its two elevators are on the same side of the building.

Beginning Sept. 14, the committee will meet weekly from 9 a.m. to noon in the Lynwood Roberts Room at City Hall.

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