In the coming weeks, the fifth Rush County Jail will be completed and the county will take ownership of the structure. The current jail was completed in 1976 and will be razed and become parking for the newer larger jail.
A little RCJ history: The first jail build in Rush County was approved by then county commissioners in 1823 and is believed to be one of the first two story structures in the county. It was essentially a two-story log cabin, with the upstairs accessed by an external staircase. According to an article published 1879, prisoners were led to the second floor and lowered by a ladder through a trap door to the first story with the ladder then drawn up.
Although no cost figure is known about Rush County’s first jail, the second county jail commissioned in 1845 at a cost of $3,250. The two-story stone structure was located east of the courthouse on what is now known as Perkins Street and included a living quarters for the jailer.
The jail remained the housing facility for unlawful individuals through 1862 when a third jail was built on the corner of Third Street and Perkins Street. The building still stands. It served as the home of the then sheriff and cost the county $10,800 to build. Improvements to the jail were made during 1896 with new cell blocks added that nearly doubled the size of the building.
The building still stands and since being decommissioned as a jail has served as a private residence and business for a number of years.
The jail currently in use, located in the 100 block of East First Street, has served the community for 44 years and currently is one of the oldest jails still in use in the Hoosier state. When completed during 1976, it had a cost to Rush County taxpayers of $671,000.
In recent years, annual state inspections have found a growing number of issues that have required minor upgrades, while many more upgrades were not made due to a Grandfather clause. The jail was originally designed to house 46 inmates, however, due to a number of factors (drug use being the largest) in recent years the daily inmate count has been considerably higher. The jail includes a kitchen, inmate intake area, and dispatch center as well as office spaces.
The soon to be completed new jail will expand on each of the aforementioned areas and include a section for juvenile offenders aside from the general population cell blocks, laundry service area, recreation area for those incarcerated as well as an infirmary (not realized in previous jail projects), training rooms, house the county community corrections department and serve as the county’s central location for fiber optic lines. The multi-leveled structure will also include an internal observation deck for law enforcement personnel to visibly observe cell blocks.
The final plans for the new jail were approved by county leaders in the fall of 2017 and the lengthy process building process has come at a considerably higher cost than previous jail projects. Even with numerous modifications and changes, the overall cost of the project is nearly $15 million.
Once construction is completed, the county will host and open house at the county’s newest jail. Sheriff Allan Rice will also announce the Sheriff Ap that will be available at no cost. It is anticipated the ap will have a dramatic impact on the reducing the number of calls to the dispatch center. Additional information on the Sheriff Ap will be released in the near future.