ANDERSON — Two weeks after officials discussed overcrowding at the Madison County Jail, the population declined by 26 inmates. But that does not alleviate the problem.
The jail population was then at 293 in the facility designed to house a maximum of 207 inmates.
Options discussed were releasing nonviolent offenders awaiting trial and expanding the minimum-security facility.
Sheriff Scott Mellinger said last Thursday the population was at 267.
“That means only 60 inmates are sleeping on the floor,” Mellinger said.
As of Thursday, the county was housing 15 inmates, sentenced on a Level 6 felony charge, in Blackford County at a cost of $35 per day.
The Indiana Department of Correction requires counties to house Level 6 felons in local facilities. The counties are reimbursed $35 per day by the state.
For the second consecutive month, Mellinger is requesting an additional appropriation of $112,981 from the Madison County Council for the housing of inmates out of the county.
Last month, the council approved $13,685 owed to Blackford County for housing inmates.
Mellinger said the jail population decreased over the past two weeks as a result of suspects awaiting trial with a nonviolent criminal history being released through the court system.
He said probation violation hearings were speeded up to lower the inmate population.
Commissioner John Richwine said Monday he has had no discussions with anyone concerning the jail overcrowding since the meeting on Feb. 24.
“There was no good direction that came out of the meeting,” he said. “The public would be appalled if they knew how many people were sitting in the jail awaiting trial.”
Richwine said the majority of the people in the jail are awaiting trial on the lowest level felony charges.
“I don’t think people should be in jail for an extended period of time awaiting trial,” he said. “If they had $500 they would be able to bond out.”
Steve Sumner, president of the Madison County Council, said there is a lack of a solid solution and it may require implementing several of the items discussed.
“We need a short- and long-term plan,” Sumner said. “If we take the money we’re spending to house people out of the county, that would pay for a new building.”
At the meeting two weeks ago, Richwine proposed constructing two dormitories on the minimum-security facility at a cost of $350,000 and have the addition completed by the end of the year.
An addition would require the hiring of 18 new staff members for community corrections. The operating cost was estimated at $700,000 per year.
If the county decides to construct additional housing as a temporary fix, it must be built to jail standards, Mellinger said.
“My hope is any temporary fix be constructed to the jail standards so it can be connected to a new jail,” he said.