FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – In the short term, the plan is to transfer or – if the situation gets desperate – attempt to release inmates from the Allen County Jail to keep it from overflowing.
In the long term, there needs to be new construction – whether as an addition to the current facility or a new one entirely – and both of those options are being studied.
The tentative plan would have a new or expanded facility by 2026.
That’s according to a new filing from the Allen County Commissioners and the Allen County Sheriff in response to a U.S. District Court judge ordering them to come up with a plan to fix the “chronically and seriously overcrowded jail.”
Judge Damon R. Leichty, ruling this past March in a class action lawsuit involving inmates at the jail, found the conditions at the facility along Calhoun Street violated those inmates’ 8th and 14th amendments outlawing cruel and unusual punishment.
The conditions caused those inmates “irreparable harm” and gave commissioners and the sheriff until Monday to come up with a plan.
In the short term, the sheriff and commissioners are trying to cap the jail’s population at 731 total inmates at any given time, according to their court filing.
In recent months, the jail population has hovered around 800 inmates.
There is already an agreement with LaGrange County officials to house up to 50 inmates in the jail there, the court filing said. The commissioners have also reached out to Noble County officials to see if a similar agreement could be made with them, as well.
They also recently cancelled a contract which allowed those accused of federal crimes to be held at the jail, according to the filing.
Allen County Sheriff David Gladieux will report the jail population to officials with the 38th Judicial District – which oversees sentencing policies and practices in the area – as well as to the commissioners regularly.
When the population reaches 731, Gladieux will have 24 hours to notify through email the prosecutor of the 38th Judicial District as well as the president of the board of commissioners and the president of the Allen County Council.
“The Sheriff or his designee shall also ask the judges to release a sufficient number of detainees to reduce the Jail’s population to 731 or less, subject to attempts to transfer to other facilities,” the sheriff’s and commissioner’s filing said. “The parties understand that that decision to release any detainee is solely within the discretion of the judiciary.”
Space in the jail is also being cleared to provide more room for recreation, according to the filing, with the hopes that each inmate will receive three hours of recreation outside his or her cellblock a week, according to the filing.
The sheriff’s department is also making a push at job fairs and other avenues to hire workers at the jail, which has been difficult, the filing said. There is currently 123 positions filled, which is adequate, according to the filing, though there is room for 21 more employees.
Long term, solutions might become more tricky.
Construction is needed to address “Constitutional Deficiencies,” the filing said. The scope of that construction has yet to be determined.
Data and projections reviewed by the sheriff and commissioners suggest that up to 1,500 beds may be necessary based on the county’s population growth, according to the filing.
“However, County trends and community concerns reveal a need to address mental health and chemical dependency/addiction issues facing the community and incarcerated individuals, which may alter both the number of jail beds necessary and the scope of any new construction,” the filing said.
“As a result, a potentially more realistic number of jail beds may be between 1,100 to 1,200 beds, while the total number of beds available for housing remains at 1,500 beds,” the filing continued.
Steps to financing and designing a new facility and simultaneously studying adding on to the current one have already begun. Possible plans on both options and what they would cost have been bandied about and schematics have been released to the public previously.
If a new facility would indeed be built, roughly 60 to 70 acres would be needed to allow for later expansion.
“The Commissioners have investigated, and continue to investigate, the suitability of property currently owned by the Commissioners, the purchase of property owned by other political subdivisions, and property currently owned by non-public entities,” the filing said.
Part of Judge Leichty’s order entailed the commissioners and sheriff’s setting deadlines for the long term solutions. In response to that, the plan is to meet the following deadlines for a new facility or the expansion of the current one by the following dates:
- Schematic Design: up to September 2022
- Design Development: up to June 2023
- Construction Documents: up to August 2023
- Bidding of and Funding of Construction: up to December 2023
- Construction: up to June 2026
A redesigned or new jail would not house any inmates until approved by the Indiana State Jail Inspector, the filing said.