VALPARAISO | Porter County Sheriff Dave Lain said ending an agreement prematurely to house federal inmates is not the way for the county to address overcrowding and financial challenges at the jail.
The move would likely result in the county having to pay back the $1.3 million "bonus" it received when it entered into the 16-year agreement in 2001 with the U.S. Marshal Service, he said.
Overcrowding is not one of the clauses in the contract that frees the county from its obligation, he said.
The county also stands to lose $380,000 in income each year if it drops out of the federal inmate program, Lain said.
Lain explored the option after Porter County Board of Commissioners President John Evans, R-North, raised concern last month the county is having to spend more at the jail to meet requirements specific to the federal inmates.
Lain said Monday there are no additional costs as a result of the federal inmates, but Evans is not convinced.
Evans said he is also not convinced the county would be required to pay back the $1.3 million in upfront money. He believes enough time has passed to meet the obligations tied to those funds.
Lain said the contract does say the county "may" be required to pay back the money, but he believes it is a real possibility.
Evans said he would like to explore the terms of federal contract further, but first wants to continue with Lain and others in addressing the medical needs at the jail.
Porter County Council President Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, said the federal inmates are one of the components in figuring out how to address overcrowding and ways to open the third pod at the jail.
Rivas said doing away with the federal inmates may not make sense if the cost is as great as described by Lain.
Lain is scheduled to appear before the County Commissioners at 1 p.m Tuesday to discuss the bids for jail medical services, but said no final decision will be made. Those bids are for additional nurses, a physician, pharmaceuticals and mental health needs.
The county is paid $56 a day to house each federal inmate at the jail, Lain said. While there are about 20 federal inmates on site at any given time, the contract allows for up to 40 and there have been as many as 60 in past years, he said.