Chesterton Tribune

 

 

County Jail third pod opening bumped to May; Sheriff seeking officers

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

Opening Day for the B pod of the Porter County Jail missed its target date of April 1 due to unforeseen staffing matters, but Sheriff David Lain believes it can be in operation “sometime in May.”

“I can’t pinpoint a date specifically but we are looking at opening somewhere next month,” Lain told the Chesterton Tribune.

During Tuesday’s County Commissioners meeting, Lain told the Commissioners that the physical aspects of the pod are in order, as his crew works have worked continuously over the last few weeks on clean up and maintenance, but there are not enough officers on staff to man the new addition.

During the last month or so, the jail has seen at least four officers resign to take jobs elsewhere or having to take sick leave. Lain said his department is currently interviewing candidates to take the place of those leaving officers and then four more will need to be hired for the jail’s B pod.

“We’re trying to play catch up as we expand,” he said.

Lain said that there are still officer positions available and any persons interested in being candidates are encouraged to contact the Porter County Jail or Ivy Tech Community College’s campus in Valparaiso.

Ivy Tech is assisting the Sheriff’s Department with testing done by Empco Inc., a Michigan based company that specializes in testing for public safety officers, to help with the hiring, Lain said.

As far as medical staffing, Lain said those jobs have been filled and will be ready when the third pod opens.

The County has taken steps to open the B pod in the last year as Lain has implored the Commissioners and the Council to ease overcrowding conditions.

In Spring 2012, Lain sent a letter saying that jail had been “stressed” housing over 450 inmates when there were only 341 beds available with only the A and C pods open, which presented liability risks. With the B pod, the number of beds would be brought up to 450.

Lain said that with the combined efforts of County officials and Porter County PACT, the overcrowding has seen some alleviation. As of this Monday, the jail had a count of 403 inmates, compared to 433 the same weekend in 2013 and 421 in 2012.

The Sheriff’s Department plans to give the local media a walk-through of the B pod before it opens, Lain said.

The Commissioners have used the $1.4 million garnered from the 2012 refinancing of the jail building bonds to pay for the new upgrades.

Addictions contract renewed

In another matter, Lain is working with the County Judges to determine why the monthly revenue yields from the County’s inmate processing fee have plummeted from $14,000 in January 2012 to $4,000 this January.

The $25 fee has traditionally paid for the agreement with Porter-Starke to provide services to inmates with drug addictions.

Even though the cost of the contract overreached the fee accumulations by about $7,000, the Commissioners voted unanimously to renew the contract for 2014 with the hope that other funds in the sheriff’s department budgets can make up the balance, as they did in 2013.

The contract, which is $11,333 per month, goes to pay two full-time and one part-time positions.

The revenue total from the $25 processing or booking fee started to dwindle once the Commissioners changed the policy, having been told by the State Board of Accounts that the County could only collect the fee after a subject has been convicted.

Lain said the judges have been “nothing but helpful” in trying to make clear why the funds have seen this much of a decline. “It shouldn’t be this vast.”

They will make the effort to investigate the matter further as keeping the Chemical Dependency and Addictions program is a worthwhile service, Lain said.

“This is a program that is too important not to have,” he said.

 

 

Posted 4/4/2014