FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Cooperation between the Allen County Sheriff’s Department and the Indiana Department of Corrections has led to a reduction in the local jail population.

Allen County Jail Commander David Butler

That’s a good thing as Sheriff David Gladieux and the Allen County Commissioners struggle to meet the demands of federal judge Damon R. Leichty, who ordered the entities to make changes at the jail in a March 31 opinion. His opinion was issued in response to a lawsuit filed in January 2020 by the ACLU and inmates charging that the jail was inhumane and understaffed.

The sheriff and commissioners have until June 16 to comply.

Federal inmates sent to NW Ohio facility

Federal inmates, housed in the Allen County jail under a $1 million contract with the U.S. Marshalls, have been moved to a facility in northwest Ohio, reducing that number from about 40 to Friday’s 13, Allen County Jail Commander David Butler said Friday.

County Commissioner Therese Brown says Allen County Jail inmate numbers are going in the right direction.

Additionally, IDOC has stepped up accepting sentenced Allen County felons. About three weeks ago, they took 28, double the normal number of 14 inmates per week.

“The biggest reason on what’s helped get the numbers down was a combination of the Department of Corrections taking the maximum shipments of inmates a week and then the U.S. Marshalls rehoused 28 inmates this week to other facilities,” Butler said. IDOC has agreed to continue taking the maximum number for the next couple of weeks to help meet the judge’s demands, he added.

Friday, the Allen County Jail had 723 inmates with 27 in lock-up, nine federal inmates and 99 inmates still sleeping in “boats,” a name given to plastic shells with padded inserts.

Last week, the jail was at 752 with 19 people in lock-up, 33 federal inmates and 117 inmates sleeping in boats.

Quarantine affecting ‘boat’ inmates

As quarantine continues on a reduced basis at the jail, lowering the number of people in “boats” has become difficult. Men and woman stay in quarantine for five days which takes up a whole block. Those blocks aren’t full, Butler said, and currently there are 61 empty beds which Butler says would reduce the boat sleepers considerably.

“We’re still operating under a five-day quarantine period , but you have empty beds in those blocks. If we get to the point where we can’t quarantine, that’ll help reduce the number of inmates that are on boats, that are sleeping on the floor,” Butler said. Inmates on boats have been as high as 150 to 200, Butler said, a product of guidelines the jail follows requiring segregation of certain jail populations.

Although not all jails continue a quarantine, Allen County is following CDC guidelines per the jail’s medical provider, Quality Correctional Care, Butler said.

“All the numbers are trending in the right direction and we’ll still continue to work  with whoever we need to work with whether it’s transferring inmates to other facilities or the Department of Corrections or a combination thereof to get it to where we have zero boats,” Butler said.

Inmate recreation starts Saturday

The judge also ordered inmate recreation three times a week, although Leichty wants recreation five days a week.

“We’re on track to begin the new recreation schedule tomorrow and that’ll be the three hours a week,” Butler said. The jail staff is looking at what kind of equipment could be used safely at the jail.

Probation violators, Level 6 felons

From week to week, there has been little to no change in the number of probation violators. There wasn’t expected to be any change in the sentenced Level 6 felony inmates the state legislature mandated to stay in Indiana jails instead of being sent to state prisons.

Gladieux said last week he had intended to house the Level 6 felons in the county facility on Venture Lane off Cook Road, but was forced to close down his work release program when the courts denied all work release applications.

Sentenced level 6 felons was at 128 Friday, five greater than the week before.

Count trending in right direction

“It would appear based on yesterday’s count that we’re going in the right direction,” Commissioner Therese Brown said Friday at the weekly commissioner’s meeting. The commissioners are scheduling a weekly jail update now. “Hopefully that trend will continue.”

Brown said she thought there was some collaboration between the courts and the Allen County Prosecutor’s office and between IDOC and the sheriff’s department.

Brown was asked if the commissioners see the need for a new jail.

“It all depends on what the federal court judge determines by the time June 16 comes around the corner,” she said.