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FOR RENT: Clean cells. Food and utilities provided. Inquire in person to your local law enforcement officer.
An exaggeration? To be sure, but jails in DeKalb, Noble and Steuben counties saw their year-over-year average daily inmate population decrease by a combined 20.5 percent.
The biggest drops were seen in DeKalb and LaGrange counties. At the DeKalb County Jail, average population went from an average of 97 in 2010 to 68 in 2011, a fall off of 29.9 percent, said Sheriff Don Lauer. LaGrange County Sheriff Terry Martin said his jail houses, on average, 148 inmates in 2010. That number fell to 93 in 2011, a decrease of 37.2 percent.
Noble County's jail population dropped by 9.7 percent, from an average daily inmate count of 176 in 2010 to 159 last year. Steuben County's numbers fell from 111 in 2010 to 103 last year, a 7.2 percent decrease.
"Midway through the year our population decreased and it didn't go back up," Lauer said. "There's a lot of factors that go into it. I don't think you can pinpoint one thing and say this was why."
Noble County Sheriff Doug Harp said his numbers declined because the Indiana Department of Corrections is no longer contracting out many inmates to stay at county jails throughout the state.
"We're still arresting the same amount of people," Harp said.
Martin said this is also a big factor at his facility, with nearly half of the jail's 2010 DOC population now being housed elsewhere.
The jail at DeKalb doesn't house DOC inmates, so that isn't a factor.
The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department also saw its 911 calls drop from 14,740 in 2010 to 12,473 last year, a decrease of 15 percent. Officers also booked fewer people into the jail, but that number was only down 7.1 percent as it fell from 1,098 in 2010 to 1,020 last year.
The county's Community Corrections program is an alternative to traditional time spent in jail, but those numbers are down, too, said the group's executive director, Kellie Knauer. DeKalb's Community Corrections program had 30 people serving in May and June, but that number fell off slightly toward the end of the year with the average for the remaining six months being 27.
No matter the reason, the drop in numbers can help facilities that do not rely on payments for housing DOC inmates, such as DeKalb's. Costs such as food, laundry and medical bills go down with a lower population.
Lauer said his jail spent $107,221.21 on inmate health care in 2010. In 2011, that number fell to $83,459, a savings to taxpayers of more than $23,762.
Steuben County Sheriff Tim Troyer said his jail's DOC inmate population has been steady the last three years. One factor in the overall decrease could be an emphasis on public safety that has been embraced by more than just police.
"Law enforcement and community programs are actually having an impact," Troyer said. "Many of us have worked hard to educate and help our communities. There are many treatment programs that are legal, clinical and faith-based. Is it possible that we are doing something right?
"Our line of work is most evaluated and criticized due to the fact that we are the most visible and the first responders to many problems," he added. "We are sometimes viewed only as reactors. Our goal is to reduce crime not just respond to it. That requires us to work hard at stopping crime before it starts."
Average daily inmate population
2010 2011 % change
DeKalb 97 68 (-29.9%)
LaGrange 148 93 (-37.2%)
Noble 176 159 (-9.7%)
Steuben 111 103 (-7.2%)
Dept.of Corrections 28.015 28,051 +0.1%
Copyright KPC News
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