VALPARAISO | More than 11 years after the Porter County Jail was opened along Ind. 49, Porter County Sheriff Dave Lain announced Monday that efforts are wrapping up to open the third and final set of cells.
A monthlong, $234,073 renovation process is complete, which makes room for 109 more beds, he said.
All that now stands in the way of opening the third satellite area is the hiring of four more jail officers, Jail Commissioner Ron Gaydos said.
That hiring process has been delayed by the search for qualified individuals and recent departures from the existing jail staff, Lain said.
The renovated third section of the jail could be open by the end of May if all goes as planned, Gaydos said.
Lain and several jail officers led a media tour of the renovated section of the jail Monday morning. The area is the smallest of the three at the jail and is composed of six housing units, which are observed by a centrally located control center.
"This is not so we can bring more inmates in," Lain said.
The jail has a maximum capacity of 454 beds, yet already reaches that number with just two of the three satellite areas open, he said. The opening of the third area will simply relieve overcrowding in the other two sections, which brings the jail into compliance with standards and reduces the risk of legal liability.
The opening has been delayed for years, in large part because of the renovation costs and the roughly $450,000 needed to hire the nine new jailers. The action finally came in the wake of recommendations from a federal study and a threatening letter from the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, which said overcrowding at the jail was inexcusable, a constitutional violation and puts the county at risk for litigation it will lose.
While the county's inmate population has been fueled by state and federal offenders, Lain said there were no state holds the last time he checked and the number of federal inmates was down to 20, which is a third of what it had been.
County judges, who ultimately decide how many people are sent to jail, are part of an effort to release those who don't need to be held, Lain said.