FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) Federal judge Damon R. Leichty is expected to speak Thursday about efforts to address overcrowding at the Allen County Jail.
The judge is scheduled to meet at 1:30 p.m. at the federal courthouse for a status hearing with Allen County Sheriff David Gladieux and Allen County Commissioners Nelson Peters, Richard Beck and Therese Brown to discuss progress since he ordered them to make changes at the Allen County Jail.
Then the number of inmates hovered around 800.
Thursday, that number stood at 680. Counting lock up, the total number was 718, still lower than the 732 the judge made mandatory.
As importantly, the number of inmates sleeping in makeshift plastic shells called boats has dropped dramatically since last week when there were as many as 99 sleeping on the floor.
Thursday, that number was 23. Boats are necessary as the jail grapples with separating inmates according to classification. Jail officials also have to deal with quarantining inmates for 5 days according to CDC guidelines regarding COVID-19.
On March 31, Leichty issued an opinion regarding a lawsuit brought in January 2020 by the Indiana ACLU and Allen County inmates charging that conditions were inhumane due to understaffing and overcrowdedness.
Leichty sided with the inmates and ordered the Allen County Sheriff’s Department and the Allen County Commissioners to reduce the number of inmates to 732,the number of people sleeping in makeshift beds called “boats” and institute recreation three times a week. Eventually, Leichty says the number must be around 592, or 80-85% of capacity.
He also wants to see plans for a new jail or an addition to the existing jail that would alleviate the overcrowded conditions.
Thursday, local activist group Help Not Handcuffs filed an amicus curiae brief in the U.S. District Court Northern District of Indiana, Fort Wayne division, in the hope of having a voice in future planning of the jail, new or renovated.
County attorney Spencer Feighner responded that the sheriff’s office had no objection to the group’s filing.