by Ashley Flynn
Since Wabash County Sheriff Bob Land has been in office, he’s had to deal with an over-capacity jail. But the problem has been around longer than that and could potentially worsen with the revision of the Indiana Criminal Code in House Bill 1006.
The jail is 34-years-old this year, and when it was built, it could house 66 inmates. Years later, the jail went under construction, added space, and raised the number of rooms to 72. Though there are a few rooms with bunk beds, no more than 85 inmates can be accommodated. Limited jail space, however, does not reduce the crime rate or number of arrests, and in Wabash County, the latter exceeds the former. This means that every week, Sheriff Land and his jail commander decide which and how many inmates will be transferred to the Miami County Jail.
As of Monday, there were 21 Wabash County inmates being housed in the Miami County Jail, in addition to the 85 housed in the Wabash County Jail.
When Land took office in 2011, he paid $26,565 to Miami County for housing our prisoners. Last year in 2012, he spent $116,575. These numbers do not include transportation or personnel costs.
“2011 wasn’t really bad for me. In 2012, I saw an increase in prisoner population. So far this year in 2013, we’ve spent $98,175,“ Sheriff Land told The Paper. “I have had two months this year where my average daily population was not over 72. Last year, every month was over capacity for my daily average.”
The county also has approximately 44 people on electronic home detention and 12 in the work release program, which helps reduce the inmate population.
Many of our inmates are in jail on drug related charges. Two weeks ago, 36 out of 86 (42 percent) were in for drug arrest. Sheriff Land says the numbers are better than 6-7 months ago when it was at 72 percent drug-related arrests.
House Bill 1006, which is expected to take effect July 1, 2014, has some worried about prisoner population in local jails.
“If you look at that bill, what are now class D Felonies will become misdemeanors, so they will be at the local jails instead of at the Department of Corrections,” Sheriff Land explained. “At least that’s most people’s opinion. We will have to wait and see.”
If the jail population does increase, Land believes that Miami County Jail can handle it. Their newer facility holds around 240 inmates.
“If they run out of room, which I doubt would happen, we would have to explore other options, “ Sheriff Land said, “Paying Miami County is the only option available to me at this time. There are no talks of expanding at this location or at a new facility.”
Sheriff land says the insufficient capacity affects everyone in the county.
“We’re spending more money on prisoners here because I do have more than what the jail holds. Other than that, it’s the only inconvenience. If our county government is content with paying Miami County, then that’s the way we’ll go,” he said.
Currently, the jail offers inmates several programs to help keep them from returning.
“We offer them programs, but it’s their choice to make. I think the programs we provide offer them a chance to look at not coming back. We offer job skills programs and teach them how to fill out applications, there’s parenting programs, GED program and others,“ Sheriff Land said. “We hope that they learn enough from these programs that they do not come back and visit me.”
Although the programs are offered to all inmates, Sheriff Land says there’s still a lot of inmates in jail now that have been there before, and for now, “we’ve got what we’ve got, and we’ll make it work.”