Employees say the new Jasper County Sheriff's Office headquarters on the Square in Carthage is more convenient and a much better value to the taxpayer than their old offices west of Carthage on County Road 180.

Employees say the new Jasper County Sheriff's Office headquarters on the Square in Carthage is more convenient and a much better value to the taxpayer than their old offices west of Carthage on County Road 180.

Some of those employees served as tour guides on Tuesday as the public got a look inside the new Sheriff's Office during an open house and ribbon cutting.

The former bank building will now serve as the offices for administrators, road deputies, detectives and support personnel as well as a place to process evidence and a potential emergency operations center in times of crisis.

Sgt. John Karraker, a road deputy supervisor who took people on tours of the building, said the officers had a say in what the building looked like and how things were arranged during construction.

“When they did the initial walk through, they asked us to look over the building and tell us what we needed,” he said. “We said we'd like a place to do walk-ins and talk to people about warrant service. When they were designing the sargents room, they wanted to put the day sargents together and we said no, put the teams together.”

Karraker said it's good to bring the department's two main functions, operations on the streets and jail operations, closer together.

“This building allows us space to branch out,” he said. “We're still close to the jail and we don't have to dodge deer while driving to our office. It's been a good move. Some people are resistant to change, but this one happened with no logistical glitches. It was time to get out of there and this brought everyone back together. The jail staff can come over here better than they could to the other location and it's a lot better overall.”

Patti Pennington, an administrative assistant working in the Sheriff's Office, said she likes being in town and close to the amenities of town.

“Out there we were 10 minutes from any place to eat,” Pennington said. “I like that we're close to places and we can walk somewhere to eat. I live in Avilla and it's closer to home too. It's a nice building and I like the impact on Carthage. It's closer to the courthouse and the jail.”

Jasper County Sheriff Randee Kaiser gave several reasons for moving back into Carthage.

“One of which is that this is a building that the county owns,” Kaiser said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “We were in a rented building before, so obviously the financial and fiscal common sense struck a chord with me. Also, logistically, being in the county seat and having our operations where we have 150 employees, having 70 of them at the jail and the other half working 20 minutes away didn't make a lot of sense so this is certainly a benefit in that regard.”

Jail open house
During a tour of the Jasper County Jail, Detention Officer Mitchell Mauller said the improvements made in the county's $829,000 renovation of the facility may not be visible to the general public, but they've made operating the jail much safer for employees and inmates.

Residents got to see the entire operation of the jail, including the central tower that overlooks the six pods, and glimpsed some of the 181 inmates housed in the jail on Tuesday.

Mauller said he had taken five or six groups of four to six people each on tours as of late Tuesday.

He showed the book-in area, where suspects are processed and brought into the jail, the warrants area where paperwork is processed, the administrative offices and medical room, among other things.

Mauller said the improvements to the jail were extensive, intricate and almost invisible to someone who hadn't seen the jail before they were installed.

He said every door in the jail had to be disassembled, locks replaced, sliding mechanisms rebuilt and the entire inmate section of the building rewired.

Mauller said a system that included push-button boards for each pod was replaced by a centralized computer system with video cameras nearly every corner of the building.
“The jail is a lot more safe,” Mauller said. “I can do my job exactly the way I could do it before this new system was installed, but it's a lot safer now, the safety part of it is there.”

Mauller said before inmates had figured out how to pick the locks on their cells. The remodel has changed that.

“You don't have to worry about them coming out of their cells,” Mauller said. “If I shut that door, it's going to stay shut. I can see when that door is open on my monitors, I can talk to the deputies a lot better. I could still run this jail the way it was, we got used to doing it that way and we put extra measures in to make sure it ran. But now we don't have to do those extra measures and we have a little bit more of a sense of security. That would be the main improvement.”