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Commissioners Begin Talking Publicly About Jail Expansion

M.C. Jail 8-9-12_distantAfter Marshall County Sheriff Matt Hassel was granted approval to apply for a SAVE (Stop Arm Violation Enforcement) Grant from the County Commissioners on Monday the topic evolved into the population at the jail.

The Sheriff said 17 individuals were arrested over the weekend and 9 were released bringing the count to 245 inmates Monday morning.

Commissioner Kevin Overmyer spoke publicly about group that investigated the possibility to build a stand-alone Work Release Center on the property in front of the jail.  In considering the possibility it was noted that there are only 44 inmates actually serving time in the jail and the remaining 200 are there for pretrial.  Only those serving time could qualify for Work Release so of the 44 it was estimate that only 20 to 30 could participate in the program.  Building a separate facility just doesn’t seem a good use of the county’s money.

Overmyer said when they built the jail it was designed to be expanded with the additional pods.  He said the kitchen and other areas were built large enough to handle the expansion.  The commissioner said with the increased population it time to look seriously at expanding the jail.

Currently there is a need to work on the mezzanine in one of the pods but there is no place to relocate the inmates while that work is completed, which could be a week or so.  Overmyer said the maintenance staff has to make repairs in with the population which isn’t a safe situation.

Sheriff Hassel told the commissioners the county needs to move forward with the intergovernmental agreement with Elkhart County so they can alleviate the overcrowding issue in the jail.

Overmyer said when they look at expanding the jail they should consider relocating the Community Corrections program out of the Court House since they are using a portion of the fourth court room.  It was commented that getting a fourth judge may also help to move those charged through the court process faster, thus reducing the population in the jail.

It was noted that the bond for the jail is set to be retired in 2021 and the quarter of a percent income tax would go away.  Overmyer said the revenues from the tax are used to operate the current jail and he didn’t see how the tax could be retired without serious concerns for the jail’s operation.

While no official action was taken the commissioners will begin looking at the process and determine the next steps to take in the near future.