State May Soon Shut Down Warren County Jail

WARREN COUNTY, Iowa -- "We did some improvements," said District 1 Supervisor Dean Yordi, Vice Chair of the Warren County Board of Supervisors. "We've added air conditioning extra units to make the air better, the air quality better. That was one of the problems."

If the Warren County Jail doesn't pass its next inspection in the coming weeks, the state will likely shut it down.

The Iowa Department of Corrections tells us:

"The department, under the authority of Iowa code, has the duty to ensure that all of Iowa's jails meet a minimum level of compliance with state standards. We do our best to work alongside county governments and sheriff departments to address major issues as they are identified. We always strive to be as flexible as possible in working with counties, but on occasion, we may have to exercise the authority to suspend operations at a jail if the identified major issues persist over an extended period of time.

As of right now, we consider all options on the table in regards to the facility in Warren County. The department will continue to work in close cooperation with the local officials on this issue."

What impact would shutting down the jail have?

Supervisor Yordi answered that question, by saying, "We`d have to farm out our inmates which we already do, farm out, some. We have more inmates than we have cells, so it'd just be an additional cost of farming out 18 inmates that we have in cells now."

Warren County is responsible for an average of 42 inmates daily. That number is expected to increase to 72 inmates daily by 2037. And if the state closes the jail in the coming weeks, communities like Indianola, Norwalk and Carlisle, among others, would be faced with a major burden.

"We don`t have a huge police force in Carlisle and if we had to transport prisoners to Marion County or wherever it might be, whatever jail might be available, not only do you lose that manpower, because we often only have one officer on duty, not only do you lose the protection here in the city, but you`re also talking about the county saying, well you've got to pay that expense," said Robert Stuyvesant, Carlisle's City Attorney.

The ultimate hope and goal is to build a new county jail.

"We`ve got to find ground first," said Yordi. "We`re having trouble locating ground that people will want to sell to place the jail on. It`s been a real nightmare, that I didn`t ever expect."

Yordi calls it the NIMBY effect.

"Not in my backyard," said Yordi. "I guess I really never expected it to be this bad, because we`re offering to pay good money for it. We`re not asking for nothing."

But even if the county is able to get someone to sell it some land to build a new jail, voters would have to pass a bond. A $35 million bond referendum to build a new justice center and jail in Warren County was defeated just last year. 1040 people voted yes. 1412 people voted no. 60% is what's needed to pass and yet the referendum didn't even receive a simple majority.