Details of jail feasibility study shared at commission meeting

Published 3:00 am Friday, August 18, 2017

After months of searching for a third party to conduct a jail feasibility study, the Pike County Commission was finally able to enter an agreement to get the work started.

The commission agreed to a $109,500 contract with TCU Consulting Services to conduct the study, which co-owner Ken Upchurch said should take three to five months.

“The biggest thing is we’re going to get the statistical analysis that we’ve been trying to get done practically since January,” said Russell Johnson, who has been the point of contact with TCU for the jail committee. “It will include the past decades of jail traffic, our census numbers and projected growth; that’s going too get done.”

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When the commission first started down the road to building a new jail, a jail feasibility study was one of the first things they sought after.

The commission first tried to bid out the study, but Johnson said that all responding parties would only agree to conduct the study if they got the architectural job. Johnson said that defeated the purpose of the study, as the commission had stated they were looking for a business that could provide the analysis on what the county would need without a stake in the facility’s construction.

Next, the commission began talks with Auburn and Troy University, but nothing came of the conversations.

Finally, the jail committee was pointed to TCU, which had previously done work on the Montgomery County Jail.

After about two months of discussion, the committee decided to let TCU make a proposal to the full commission for the job.

TCU prepared a document for the commission Monday detailing exactly what the information the study will provide for the commission to assess.

According to the plan, the first step will be to form a project committee, which will hold a workshop with stakeholders to cover primary concerns and establish lines of communication for the rest of the study.

Next, TCU will begin building a database to work off of when making projections for the jail. Data that will be collected includes items such as historical and projected total county population, arrests and arrest rate by type of offense, average length of stay (ALOS) in jail for pre-trial and sentenced offenders, sentencing dispositions by type of crime and comparison data from jurisdictions of similar size.

Once all the data points are collected, TCU will then work off of them to analyze criminal justice trends and forecast needs for the correctional system.

TCU will also be assessing the current facility and its operations. TCU would find whether the jail has some functionality left to be used or not and what makes the most sense to do with the building moving forward.

Johnson said one of the most important aspects of the study will be TCU’s preparation of a budget to operate the new jail.

“The operating budget is an issue,” Johnson said. “A large portion of what the sheriff is going to need monetarily is people. TCU is going to take our current operation budget and design a budget for this new jail. They’re going to tell us what it would run to cost if it was at full capacity and what we can afford, and then develop some choices for how to work toward future growth.”

To accomplish that, TCU details a classification and compensation study that will dig into existing job classifications, job descriptions, pay schedules, classification structure and more.

Based on that current data, TCU would then develop new job specifications and descriptions, recommend pay grades, salary ranges and structuring.

This process began Monday and can be expected to be completed sometime between November and January.