Construction on the new Winnebago County Justice Center is ahead of schedule. The sheriff's offices should open by January 1. The new jail will be housing inmates by early summer.
"It's 586,000 square feet with almost 3,000 doors," said Sheriff Dick Meyers.
The new justice center can't come soon enough. On Tuesday 520 inmates were being housed in the Winnebago County Jail. The maximum capacity is 394.
"Between now and the time the new jail is open they have to find another way of treating the inmates humanely, and if that means sending them to another jail that's less crowded, they should do that," said Stanley Campbell, director of Rockford Urban Ministries.
"To take the number of people that we're overcrowded with, I don't know that we could find enough beds in the state without shipping them to southern Illinois and all over. It gets to be a logistical nightmare to get them back in here," said Sheriff Meyers.
To cut down the jail population, courts are sending criminals who commit non-threatening offenses such as possession of marijuana to alternative programs instead of jail.
"The more people we can put in alternative programs that don't pose a major threat to this community the more room we have to house those that do," Meyers said.
And while the inmate population is rising, so are the number of guards; 120 new corrections officers are going through training at the county jail to prepare for the transition to the new justice center.
Sheriff Meyers will update progress on the new jail this Thursday night. He'll talk at the Brooke Road United Methodist Church at seven o'clock.