Space issues in the Porter County Jail have not gone away but a few beds
might be opening up as the County Commissioners and Sheriff David Lain are
mulling the possibility of doing away with holding state and federal
During a discussion regarding the purchase of a new electronic medical
records system for the jail at Tuesday’s County Commissioner meeting,
Commissioner President, John Evans, R-North, brought up his wish to review
the costs or benefits and associated with housing Department of Correction
inmates versus holding county offenders only.
Evans said holding the prisoners means the County will have to make
upgrades, which may prove costly, in order to keep receiving payments from
the federal level for holding those prisoners.
“It’s not beneficial if it is not making us money,” Evans said.
Sheriff David Lain said he had been on the phone with the U.S. Marshal
Service about the possibility of canceling the contract but at the moment
he’s unsure what the ramifications would be. There may be penalties, he
said, and the county could be made to pay back its $1.3 million “signing
He said the county signed the 16-year contract to house federal and state
prisoners around 2001 when the current jail opened. Originally the county
was given $43 per day for each prisoner and since the most recent
negotiation two years ago, the county receives $56 per day for each one.
With 19 DOC prisoners in the jail per month, Lain said the County receives
roughly $388,000 per year.
The number of federal and state prisoners has decreased partly because more
courts are allowing convicted persons to utilize community PACT and home
But dropping the contract could mean more beds available at the overcrowded
PCJ, allowing some more time before the County would need to open and staff
the unused third pod, which is estimated would cost around $1.7 million and
would have to be paid from the County’s own pocket.
Lain has doubts there would be any savings and said the National Institute
of Corrections (NIC) recommended to him that there be access to as many beds
as possible. “I think we need to open (the pod),” he said.
Both he and Evans agreed to look at all sides of the issue.
Meanwhile, the Commissioners voted in favor of purchasing a new electronic
medical records system for the sheriff’s department. Using funds from jail
bond refinancing, the not-to-exceed $45,000 contract with CorEMR of Utah
will include one-time installation and training.
Lain said the EMR is be a “stand-alone system” and is compatible with the
Tiburon system for internal record keeping which would be useful should the
jail ever switch providers.
“I think it will be a good fit,” Lain said, adding that the system has been
recommended by the NIC. He hopes to have the system ready to use before the
County chooses a new medical team for PCJ to clear away some backlog that
has built up.
A total of nine bids were received Tuesday for the jail medical staffing,
the sheriff’s department will review each one and make a recommendation to
the Commissioners at their Feb. 19 meeting.
The expired contractor, Advanced Correctional Healthcare, is continuing to
provide care on a per month basis until a new provider is set up. Lain had
said he would like to hire 13 more nurses and physicians, some which would
be shared with the Juvenile Service Center. In addition to medical care,
Lain said the jail hopes to introduce programs to improve the mental health
of the inmates.
Later on Tuesday, the County Council approved hiring a nursing director who
will also be in charge of quality assurance (see related story). The other
nurses will be contractual employees hired by the new provider, Lain said.
In another jail-related matter, the Commissioners renewed an agreement with
Porter-Starke Services for the chemical dependency program although the fund
being used to pay the amount of $136,000 per year has been declining due to
a change in policy.
The fund is paid through $25 fees for each arrestee when they are booked at
PCJ, but was changed last year to reflect that the fee will not be charged
until conviction or refunded if the arrestee is not guilty, as directed by
The money for the contract will be taken out of an alternative fund until
the booking fees can catch up, Lain said.