City council group considering Duval County jail move eyes area near courthouse as possible landing spot

In the first official move looking into moving the Duval County jail, a city council committee met Wednesday to talk about the possibility of putting the jail somewhere else after 31 years at the current site.

There has been talk over the past four years of putting the jail somewhere else instead of along the riverfront.

And the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office headquarters could be on the move, too.

Officials say the jail and the JSO complex are a mess, and they need some changes.

The jail first opened in 1991 and at the time the city was under a federal court order to fix problems of housing inmates in Jacksonville. It cost $70 million at the time to build a new jail and once they moved the inmates in from the old facilities it was 80% full.

The special committee of council members who met Wednesday heard from jail officials who pointed out problems that are now occurring at the jail.

A JSO director said the jail could be expanded but not in its current state.

“I don’t think it’s feasible to expand with the current state of the facility with the pipes and the plumbing and HVAC, I don’t think expanding it would be a feasible option,” JSO Director Kevin Goff said.

According to a report presented to the committee, $3 million has been spent annually for repairs to the jail since 2017.

The committee also heard there was concern the city could end up under another court order to fix the problems. Members were also told about similar problems next door at JSO headquarters with overcrowding. Legislation is being considered to move some of the sheriff’s office staff to the Florida Blue building in Riverside.

There are questions about if city leaders want to move the jail away from the riverfront to make way for redevelopment in the area that is changing quickly, with several new projects in the works.

“I’ve had no conversation from anybody about the external pressures of moving this jail. And I understand, I appreciate the fact that there are players out there who are interested in seeing that jail moved. I fully expect that this is a precursor to that process. But my focus is on what kind of facility or facilities do we need to best serve the processes of detention,” Councilman Michael Boylan said.

If the jail and the sheriff’s office were to be moved, it would cost the city hundreds of millions to do so, but there is also the question of where it would go. And it seemed a general consensus could be somewhere near the courthouse.

“Yes, it’s about moving the jail. But as we look at moving it, what’s going to be there? Do we need more land? Is it better? I think one of the lessons that we learned is that it’s probably better to go horizontal as opposed to vertical,” Councilman Rahman Johnson said.

The committee is going to meet many times to discuss the options and what could actually happen with the jail in the coming weeks. And then when they make their recommendations, the council will vote and then the Deegan administration will decide what’s going to happen next.

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