VALPARAISO | Armed with recommendations from a recent federal study, Porter County Sheriff Dave Lain is taking another shot at convincing the Porter County Council to hire additional guards and/or medical personnel for the jail.
Lain said he will ask the panel during its Oct. 15 budget hearing to consider coming up with the $933,000 needed to hire 16 additional guards.
This is the number of additional guards needed to open the third pod at the jail and provide a greater level of safety for all employees at the facility located south of U.S. 30 on the east side of Ind. 49.
Before the third pod can be opened, Porter County is going to have to come up with an additional, one-time sum of $100,000 to $120,000 to repair that part of the jail, which has had equipment, furnishings and other parts removed for use elsewhere in the facility, Lain said. A lack of staffing has prevented the third pod from being used since the jail opened 10 years ago.
The National Institute of Corrections concluded in its recent assessment of the jail that, "There is no question that the jail is crowded and under-staffed."
The NIC, an agency within the U.S. Department of Justice's Federal Bureau of Prisons, recommends the county take immediate steps to open the third pod, hire additional guards and revamp its supervision practices to include more direct contact with inmates.
The latter recommendation leads to fewer problems and greater safety for all at the jail, Lain said. Guards currently spend most of their time in satellite control units observing inmates from a distance and have little interaction due their low numbers.
There are occasional incidents of guards being injured by inmates, including one this past summer, Lain said.
Porter County Councilman Jim Biggs, R-1st, said he and others on the council believe the needs at the jail are too costly to be addressed at one time.
He and Council President Dan Whitten, D-at-large, said they would like to begin the costly process by addressing the need for more medical care professionals at the jail.
Lain said he does not disagree with the approach and said he is working on a proposal to hire more nurses. He said the nursing staff of five needs to be increased to a combination of 14 full and part-time providers in order to expand care to around the clock, within the infirmary and have someone available for intakes.
While Lain did not have a total estimated cost for the additional nurses, he said the rate is $25 an hour.
Biggs said all options must be considered, including contracting out for the medical care.
Porter County Commission President John Evans, R-North, announced earlier this month he is seeking proposals to determine whether a private firm could operate the jail and courthouse security at a better price than county government.