Jasper County voters go to the polls today to decide a bond issue on building a new jail in Newton. Sheriff Mike Balmer says it’s clear there’s a need for more space. Balmer says the daily average in 2002 was 32.4 people in custody at the jail, not counting five women every day on the average. The jail currently doesn’t have space for holding women and young offenders separately, which the sheriff says is a problem. Balmer says when juveniles are taken into custody, he has nowhere to hold them, and must have the juvenile court issue an order to send them to some other facility. Though the new jail will not be a fulltime juvenile detention facility, it will have places designed to hold youthful and female offenders as well as men. Architects have told him if they can get designs finished and bids let, footings can be set in the ground before winter, which will let construction go on through the winter and they can move in a year from December. The sheriff says most people he talked with at town meetings seemed to accept the idea that the town needs a new jail, and their questions centered on the cost of the bond to taxpayers, and the design of the new facility. Sheriff Balmer says the new jail would be just off one of the Newton exits from Interstate 80.
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