CROWN POINT | Lake County Sheriff John Buncich updated the Lake County Board of Commissioners about jail renovations and compliance issues at a special meeting on Wednesday.
A December 2010 settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division calls for an upgrade of the jail's previously substandard health care and sanitary conditions for inmates under prior administrations.
“The 99 issues that the DOJ had are now out of noncompliance. Many of those issues are in compliance, and we’re working to get the rest in compliance,” Buncich said.
“We would like to have this done before the next election (next fall),” he told commissioners Roosevelt Allen, D-Gary, Fran DuPey, D-Hammond, and Gerry Scheub, D-Crown Point.
Although the commissioners expressed the same sentiments, they scrutinized Buncich’s requests to approve contracts for mental health and dental services.
DuPey questioned several of the contracts, including one for on-call services by mental health provider, Faith A. Ornelas, a registered neuroscience consultant, and one with consultant Lindsay M. Hayes, National Center on Institutions and Alternatives Inc. based in Maryland.
Buncich and attorney John Bushemi explained why the $4.5 million in contract fees were necessary to stay in compliance with the DOJ settlement, although only $2.7 million has been appropriated.
In spite of the funding shortfall, DuPey reluctantly allowed the commission to vote on the total package, although she abstained because she is leaving office Dec. 31. She will be replaced by Mike Repay, a Democrat.
Buncich and Lake County Attorney John Dull recommended that in January one of the commissioners begin meeting with representatives of the Lake County criminal justice system to continue working toward compliance with the DOJ and end the federal involvement.
The sheriff also said he will unveil his master plan to involve all those in the criminal justice system and members of the public.
“It’s our head count (the number of inmates) that will continue to cause us problems,” Scheub said. “I’m tired of this. We don’t get cooperation from all the judges. There’s no end in sight.”