Moving Duval County jail to be a budget priority for incoming Jacksonville City Council president

JSO has estimated that building a new jail could cost around $250 million

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Incoming Jacksonville City Council president Ron Salem said one of his main priorities when he takes the helm will be building a new jail and moving it away from its current home just off East Bay Street downtown.

In an interview on This Week In Jacksonville on Wednesday, which will air Sunday on News4JAX, Salem said the jail is over 30 years old and not in good condition.

“I’ll be setting up a process where we can have that public discussion involving the public defender, the courts, the state attorney, the clerk of the court, bringing all the people together and trying to figure out where we move it, what services are provided, mental health, health care, etc. in order to we can begin the process of hopefully building a new jail at some point in the future,” Salem said.

Jacksonville Councilman Ron Salem talks about moving the jail on This Week In Jacksonville. (Copyright 2023 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

Sheriff T.K. Waters said getting a new jail is necessary because it is “in pretty rough condition.”

“I think we can get something done with a partnership with the mayor and the city council,” Waters told News4JAX on Thursday. “So we want to work toward that. We’re gonna do some studies to find out what it will cost us to be able to do that now, give that over to our city council, get it over to our mayor and go from there.”

But Waters said getting it done could take anywhere from four to eight years.

Moving the jail has also been a priority for outgoing Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry for years.

Curry made moving the jail out of downtown part of the city’s capital improvement project. Curry said in 2018 that the move “faces some challenges,” but the goal is to get government buildings away from the river and create a unified Bay Street corridor.

The jail is right next to a planned park and housing development and its location by the stadium is one reason some want to see it go somewhere else.

No potential locations were immediately pinpointed by Curry back then, but one suggestion is to build a pretrial detention facility on Lannie Road on the Northside, on property adjoining the Montgomery Correctional Center. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office estimated it would cost $246 million.

On Wednesday, Salem said the estimated cost and the possible location are still up in the air.

“We’ve just begun to look at hiring a consultant that will aid us in that process. So I really have no idea. I think it depends a great deal on where we put it. There’s been discussion of the prison farm [officially the Montgomery Correctional Center] we had on the north side, potentially Cecil Field, so a lot of it depends upon where we locate it,” Salem said.

It’s not clear where incoming Mayor-Elect Donna Deegan stands on the issue. She said she wasn’t ready to comment about it when asked on Thursday.

About the Authors:

Digital reporter who has lived in Jacksonville for more than 25 years and focuses on important local issues like education and the environment.

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.