FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Sending low-level felony offenders to state prisons would alleviate the inmate population at the Allen County Jail, Sheriff David Gladieux said.
While Indiana lawmakers consider a bill that would allow more people convicted of Level 6 felonies to be sentenced to the Department of Correction rather than county jails, Gladieux said he doesn’t see a clear end to reducing another big population – probation and Community Corrections violators – until the judicial system takes stock that many programs don’t work.
Level 6 inmates and probation violators were two topics at Thursday’s board meeting for Allen County Community Corrections where a Jail Population Study was released.
Friday, the number of Level 6 sentenced inmates was 128, but the number typically increases in the summer, Gladieux said. In the past two weeks, the jail population has ranged from about 800 to 815 inmates.
Allen County Commissioner Therese Brown reported that House Bill 1004 is moving rapidly through the state legislature and would overturn 2014 state legislation that required county jails to house Level 6 inmates, the state’s lowest level felony. She called estimating jail beds needed a “crap shoot.”
Although the legislation would help would help alleviate county jail overcrowding if it becomes law, it would not pre-empt the need for a new jail here, Gladieux said.
The current jail downtown is a multi-level, outdated facility that requires more employees than newer jails and is harder to manage. Inmates routinely flood the old plumbing and pass drugs through pipes, for instance.
“We still need a new jail,” Gladieux said. A jail study released last fall by Elevatus Architecture, a local firm specializing in building jails, estimated the county would need a 1,500 bed that would accommodate future needs.
Probation violators number around 200, on a consistent basis.
“I average 200 probation offenders,” Gladieux said in a sit-down interview Friday. “The problem with it is, you violate probation, you end up back in my jail.
“Nine times out of 10, they go right back into probation. (They) give them a second chance and third chance, fourth chance. It just tells me that there are some people in that jail that don’t belong in that jail . I’ve always said that – the mental health issues that we’re dealing with, not just here in Allen County, it’s nationwide.”
Because of the constant number of violators, Gladieux said he doesn’t think some of the programs are working.
“There are some people in that jail time and time again and there are some people in that jail that don’t deserve to be in any type of program. They need to go to prison,” Gladieux said.
For example, in prison, people addicted to drugs would have the opportunity to enroll in prison programs that address addiction, because the state has the money and the expertise to do it, he added.
At the Community Corrections Advisory Board meeting, a jail population study was released. The population study indicated low numbers for community corrections violators over a 4-year period from April 2017 to November 2021, compared to the overall number of probation violators. Community corrections violators ranged from 16 to 26 violators in one-day snapshots.
Community Corrections violations were characterized as technical violations and new arrests.
In a follow-up email, Kim Churchward, executive director for Community Corrections, said the jail population study was “conducted in Allen County in a collaborative effort between the jail staff, Allen Superior Court Pretrial Services, Allen County Adult Probation and Allen County Community Corrections.
“It took three agencies of staff weeks to do the in-depth studies spanning 2017-2021. Judge Gull graciously pointed out that the Sheriff would need a team of classification staff at the jail to do the same type of in-depth study and clearly he (unfortunately) does not have that staff.”
Churchward also said that Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull, chair of the Allen County Community Corrections Advisory Board, “spoke Thursday about the total number of defendants under community-based supervision in Allen County through probation, community corrections and all of the local problem-solving court programs – Drug Court, Restoration Court, Veterans Court, Re-entry Court, OVWI Court -and the fact that on any given day a very small percentage of these thousands of defendants served each year were in the jail in violation status and those those who were in the jail definitely needed to be there.”
Gladieux said he has plenty of probation violators who are in local judicial programs that include Community Corrections.
“I don’t think some of these programs are working, and if they’re not working, let’s stop doing them,” the sheriff said. “There are some people in that jail that don’t belong there. I’ve always said that. It’s not my decision, But there are also some people in that jail that seem to be in that jail time and time again and there are some people in that jail that don’t deserve to be put on any type of program. They need to go to prison.”