Larger jail wanted in DeKalb County

AUBURN, Ind. (WANE) – The DeKalb County Jail is one of many across Indiana dealing with overcrowding.  One of the unexpected reasons: a significant increase in female inmates.  Under a new state mandate, officers worry it could get worse, which is why they want to get a brand new, larger jail.

The DeKalb County Jail has 105 beds for inmates.  Jail Commander Eric Openlander said it has been operating at full capacity almost every day in the month of June.

“One of the biggest issues we seem to be encountering is the fact that our female population has grown,” Openlander said.  “Close or near half is meth-related charges along with some other charges.  So we just seem to see a rise in females committing crimes.”

Women only make up about 10 percent of inmates at his jail.  But with that number on the rise, Openlander said officers have had to move the women from medium to large cell blocks.  The jail commander said at times, it’s difficult to keep enough space between the women.

“Right now if we’re averaging 15 to 18 females in a cell block.  We have those who just plain don’t like each other and choose not to get along,” he said.

Indiana’s new felony classifications kick in Tuesday.  Under them, certain charges that once sent criminals to the Department of Corrections, will instead send them to county jails.  That’s why Openlander thinks a new jail facility would be best.

But Don Grogg, president of the DeKalb County Commissioners, said a new jail would cost about $20 million.  It’s a project he thinks will eventually have to happen because of the new state mandate.  He’s just not sure how it will be funded.

“It’s like everything.  It would be nice to have, but funding is just not there,” Grogg said.  “It’s hard to figure out where you’re going to get that money…you just can’t put any more pressure on the people.”

Openlander said if DeKalb County receives more inmates than it can hold, officers will transfer them to other facilities with free space.  He said DeKalb County Sheriff Don Lauer hopes to put together a committee to get public opinion and see what needs to happen to get the new facility.

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