HARDIN COUNTY, IL (KFVS) - The Hardin County Sheriffs Office is working to bring new life to the old Hardin County Work Camp.
The facility has been closed since 2016, but Sheriff JT Fricker and his wife Jessica Fricker want to reopen the site as the new county detention center.
"It's an opportunity to breathe life into a county that really needs it. we need this boost in our economy down here," says Jessica Fricker. She and her family live in Hardin County. Fricker is also the County’s Dispatch Supervisor.
When the Illinois Department of Corrections Hardin County Work Camp closed, she says it really hit the town hard and even her family.“When the work camp closed it was a hardship on our county because a lot of our community members were employees there for DOC and now those same people are having to travel outside of the county for work," Fricker says.Currently, the work camp is a boarded up vacant lot of 17 acres. The facility used to house 200 inmates, according to Fricker, which she says would provide the county with at least 75 to start.
The county jail is the 2nd oldest jail in Illinois without major renovations and one of the smallest jails in the state.
This is why Fricker says the utilizing the former jail can bring a lot of potential for everyone. "It would allow us to bring employment opportunities in the county, maybe keep some of the residents here.”
Sheriff Fricker agrees saying jobs is the most important factor. “The biggest need is the jobs and revenue that it will bring in. that’s what I’m looking at right now.”Deputy Sheriff Joe Jenkins retired from the former work camp and now works for Hardin County Sheriffs Office. He is an advocate for the new facility for one reason. He says, “JOBS...it’s not just jobs for officers, it’s jobs for jailers, it’s job for food supervisors that would have to prepare the meals , it’s jobs for healthcare because they need a nurse on duty..it’s just jobs. that just something our county just desperately, desperately needs.”
Fricker says they are still in the early stages of planning. She concludes, "We are hoping we can open this and we can bring some life back into Hardin County.
Fricker says they are trying to get the facility back in the county’s name, then they will be able to see what of grants they may be eligible to receive.