FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A new state law will take effect July 1 and may increase the number of inmates at the county jail. House Bill 1006 requires some inmates to be sent to county jails instead of state prisons. The goal: to reduce the number of inmates in state prisons. In light of that, officials with the Allen County Sheriff’s Department went before County Council Thursday to ask for funds so they can hire nine new guards for the jail.
“We want to be proactive with our staffing instead of reactive,” Allen County Sheriff’s Department Financial Director Nicholas Cripe said.
On top of that, the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act, which will go into effect in 2017, would mandate the jail to add guards to protect inmates from sexual assault.
Department Financial Director Nicholas Cripe tells NewsChannel 15 hiring confinement officers costs less then hiring sworn officers. It would had cost the county about $158,000 for the remainder of this year, and roughly $300,000 next year. Thursday morning County Council denied the Sheriff’s Department’s request. One of the major reasons being they currently have 10 vacancies right now. Officials with the department tell NewsChannel 15 those positions will be filled in the next two to three weeks. County Council President Darren Vogt says the Sheriff’s Department has had the vacancies for the last year and a half.
“For the last year and a half they have been 10 officers down, and they don’t know what they are like for full capacity. So, until they get to full capacity how many officers do they really need,” County Council President Darren Vogt explained.
Cripe says another issue surrounding the need for more officers is this: over the years there have been several communities that have asked the Sheriff’s Department for officers strictly for their areas. On top of that, school districts came to the department asking for school resource officers. Cripe says they took those people from the jail to put them into those positions. The department is being reinbursed by the schools and communities in return. So, there is no additional cost to the county for that service. Cripe tells NewsChannel 15 the issue the department ran into is they never hired anyone to fill those positions back then at the jail. That’s another reason why the department was hoping County Council would approve funds for the nine new officers.
The Allen County Sheriff’s Department will stay in touch with County Council about the issue. Council says they will reconsider the request next year.