Chesterton Tribune

Sheriff Lain warns of unsafe overcrowding and liability at jail

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Porter County Sheriff Dave Lain is warning county officials of what he’s calling an “unsafe situation” and “unsustainable” overcrowding at the Porter County Jail.

In a letter dated Tuesday and addressed to the County Council, County Commissioners, County Attorney, the Adult Probation Department, and Superior and Circuit Court judges, Lain announced that, as of Tuesday morning, there were currently 100 more inmates at PCJ than there were beds available.

“It is my responsibility as Sheriff to inform you of an unsafe situation at the Porter County Jail,” Lain opens his letter. “Our inmate population over last weekend was 485. As of this morning we were ‘down’ to 459. However, with only 350 beds available these numbers remain unsustainable.”

In addition, PCJ has no medical staff on duty for the eight hours between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., Lain states, and between the overcrowding and the lack of around-the-clock medical staff the county is facing a “huge liability exposure.”

“There is a very real danger of federal mandates being placed on jail operations if both these issues are not addressed locally in a timely fashion,” Lain states.

There is a third issue as well: PCJ at the moment is understaffed by jail officers. “To add to the stress of the jail, we are six officers short due to resignations, sickness, or injury,” Lain states. “We are in the process of hiring as quickly as possible, but training a new officer will take a minimum of six weeks after employment.”

“All of you are sensitive to the crowding issue and have done what you can to alleviate additional pressures,” Lain states. “I implore you to redouble your efforts to help to reduce our jail population. We do not have the luxury of being able to choose who we admit to this facility, nor can we ask law enforcement to look the other way instead of making fresh arrests.”

“We have been open for more than nine years,” Lain notes. “We have often discussed the fact that fully one-third of this jail remains unused. We must find a way to hire more personnel so that we can have adequate bed space for the inmates who are housed. All but 17 inmates are local, not feds or (Indiana Department of Correction) so we cannot ask for the inmates to be housed elsewhere. (There have been volumes spoken lately about crowding at the Animal Shelter.)”

“We must find funding for additional medical staff so that we can maintain 24-hour coverage,” Lain concludes his letter. “The price of not doing so will one day be staggering.”

Requests for funds to hire more staff would be considered by the Porter County Council.



Posted 5/2/2012