A new jail replacing the one in Downtown Jacksonville could cost around $1 billion

A new jail replacing the one in Downtown Jacksonville could cost around $1 billion

According to a City Council member spearheading a special committee, the prospective cost of constructing a new county jail could soar to approximately $1 billion, based on preliminary estimations. While the ongoing study remains in its conceptual phase and hasn’t conducted an in-depth cost analysis yet, council members anticipate that the projected expenses for a new jail will substantially surpass the previous estimates the city has relied upon.

This hefty price tag for a new jail would compound the financial strain already imposed by plans to refurbish the city-owned football stadium for a lease extension with the Jaguars. The proposed design for the stadium, as presented by the Jaguars, carries an estimated cost of up to $1.4 billion. Should an agreement be reached between the city and Jaguars owner Shad Khan, they would share the financial burden.

While a new jail might come with a comparatively lower price tag than a renovated football stadium, the entire cost of the jail would rest solely on taxpayers, presenting a significant fiscal challenge for the city’s budget.

City Council member Michael Boylan, chairing the special committee, suggested that a ballpark estimate for the new jail could hover around $1.2 billion once construction commences following decisions on the project’s scope. This projection, he noted, isn’t unreasonable given the anticipated requirements.

In contrast, City Council President Ron Salem indicated hearing figures ranging from $500 million to $800 million for the new jail, emphasizing the necessity for a long-term vision spanning at least 50 years to accommodate the city’s evolving jail needs.

Recent years have seen the city’s capital improvement program peg the cost of a 3,000-bed jail at $244 million, alongside a $41 million outlay for a second 500-bed jail and an estimated $96 million for a new Police Memorial Building. These figures, totaling $381 million, have remained unchanged for several years despite the escalation of construction costs due to inflation. Moreover, the ongoing jail study examines the feasibility of constructing a campus-style facility with provisions for future expansion and enhanced services, diverging from the existing cramped high-rise facility downtown.

The study also explores avenues for providing mental health treatment and vocational training within the jail premises, aiming to address recidivism rates and integrate “wraparound services” into the facility, thereby augmenting the overall project cost.

Comparable estimates from other jurisdictions, such as Pima County, Arizona, and Fulton County, Georgia, underscore the substantial financial commitment associated with jail construction, further emphasizing the complexities inherent in such endeavors.

Meanwhile, discussions between the City Council committee and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office explore alternatives to constructing a new headquarters building, including the possibility of leasing space for administrative functions. The Florida Blue building on Riverside Avenue has been identified as a potential leasing option, albeit at a considerable annual expense.

The special City Council committee is scheduled to convene on Tuesday to further deliberate on these matters, highlighting the ongoing efforts to navigate the multifaceted challenges surrounding jail infrastructure and operational needs.