Commissioners back plan to relieve jail overcrowding with inmate release

2013-09-03T18:48:00Z 2013-10-03T20:05:09Z Commissioners back plan to relieve jail overcrowding with inmate releaseBob Kasarda bob.kasarda@nwi.com, (219) 548-4345 nwitimes.com
September 03, 2013 6:48 pm  • 

VALPARAISO | The Porter County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday addressed the long-standing problem of overcrowding at the jail.

They supported a $147,690 proposal to hire one full-time and two part-time people to choose inmates who could safely be supervised outside of the jail while their cases move forward.

The county could save $290,310 a year over the cost of incarcerating 30 individuals, said Tammy O'Neill, director of Porter County PACT.

The staff, which would be hired by PACT and serve the county on a contractual basis, would review the jail population daily, assess inmates for potential release and provide the results to the judges to make a final decision and set appropriate terms for supervision, she said.

The proposal calls for $53,110 for electronic monitoring services and $3,000 for drug testing.

Porter Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper said the effort would target pre-trial detainees, who unlike those already sentenced, do not generate a reimbursement from the state department of corrections.

The proposal is just one part of a multifaceted approach to the jail overcrowding problem, she said. Another element that has attracted more discussion is opening a third pod, which the sheriff has said would require hiring nine additional officers.

Commissioners President John Evans, R-North, said he intends to ask the County Council about dedicating additional local income revenue to fund the proposal.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana added to the pressure to relieve overcrowding at the county jail by concluding after a recent tour it is "inexcusable" the county has not used the entire facility.

The county's failure to address overcrowding amounts to a constitutional violation and places the county at risk for litigation it will lose, ACLU attorney Kenneth Falk wrote in a letter to Elizabeth Knight, attorney for Porter County.

Porter County Councilman Jim Biggs, R-1st, who is one of the council's liaisons to the jail and sheriff's department, recently said he supports opening the third pod, but wants to see more alternatives pursued to sending people to jail.

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