The sheriff’s department and jail are located at 1615 Western Avenue on the west end of Bluffton, IN 46714, phone 260-824-3426. Fax 260-824-6424. The current facility was built in 1985 and houses 94 inmates.
The first Wells County Jail was located on the southwest corner of the lot where the present courthouse stands, adjacent to the original courthouse. The jail, built by David Whitman, a Bluffton farmer, consisted of one foot square hewn timbers with dimensions of 18′ x 20′ and was two stories tall.
A fire destroyed the both early courthouse and jail in 1845, and in that same year, commissioners accepted a new brick courthouse on the present site after the first structure became unsatisfactory. There are, however, no reports of construction of a second jail until 1855-56 when a brick lock-up was built just south of the courthouse. This brick jail stood on the south end of the courthouse and was occupied by the clerk’s and recorder’s offices. It was condemned along with the courthouse and razed to make room for the present courthouse, which was dedicated in 1889. What became of the brick jail is unknown, but the News-Banner reported on January 10, 1947 that a small house on 657 South Dougherty Street had a small fire, the house at 6 thick walls and was, at one time, a jail, stated the report.
Jonathon P. Smith of Bluffton erected the second jail, designed by Edgar J. Hodgson, an Indianapolis architect, in 1880 for $21,400. An extensive remodeling project was conducted in 1961-62 as a result of several jailbreaks and a report from the State Jail Inspector citing overall inadequacies in the jail. A group of young southerners escaped first by forcing open an unused dumbwaiter shaft, climbing up to the attic and walking boldly down a stairway and out the main lobby. After being recaptured, they chiseled through original river rock flooring soft sandstone which had cracked with age and crawled out through a coal chute. As an effect of the jailbreaks, the Wells County residents were accused of partial blame for permitting the jail to remain in its sad and archaic state and that the jail appeared to be held together with bailing wire, chewing gum and twine string. Harold Fiely, a Portland attorney, said that the jail was one of the five worst in Indiana; and at the time, said he could not remember one that was worse. In May 1961 Reiff Construction Company began a major renovation on the jail and was completed in January 1962.