The first Adams County Jail was built in 1839 from hand-hewn lumber at a cost to taxpayers of $325. It was replaced in 1886 by a newer, brick building which served the county for nearly the next 100 years.
By the late 19770's, however, then-sheriff Tom Coolman was faced with pressures from the state fire marshal's office to vacate the building, as well as the possibility of lawsuits stemming from what many considered to be inhuman conditions. The old jail had originally been designed to hold 12 inmates each in two large rooms, for a capacity of 24 male prisoners. There were no individual cells or separate facilities for women.
At about the same time, Jay County had been forced to settle a federal lawsuit by agreeing to construct a new jail. The judicial order came with a multitude of state mandates concerning every conceivable aspect of its construction. To avoid such potential litigation and forced compliance on edict from the state, the Adams County Commissioners agreed to build a new jail, and construction on the new facility began in April of 1980. It was ready for occupancy by August of 1981.
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