It’s no secret that the Grant County Jail is often overcrowded.

Though the facility routinely houses more than 280 inmates, its official maximum capacity is actually 274.

There have been several times the jail count has climbed up to more than 300 inmates. Sheriff Reggie Nevels recalls the jail count once got up to 370 inmates, but he stressed that was years ago.

While this problem is not exclusive to Grant County, it’s especially challenging to those who work at the jail.

Capt. Todd Fleece said that everyone working there must “stay on their toes.”

The large amount of inmates combined with the shortage of corrections officers makes for some demanding situations.

Nevels said the more inmates there are, the more problems they have, including more altercations and issues among inmates.

He said there is even a “no-mix list” of inmates who are known to have problems with one another and cannot be around each other.

“It’s like a little city within a city,” Lt. Kevin Carmichael said.

“And everyone wants to be mayor,” Nevels added.

Though finding a suitable place to house every inmate can be difficult, Carmichael said officers have been able to keep all the inmates in appropriate spaces.

It’s not unheard of for jails to use additional spaces, like recreation rooms, to hold more inmates, but Carmichael said the Grant County Jail has not needed to use its day room to house inmates since 2008.

Despite the stress of being over capacity, Carmichael stated that employees try to make the best of the situation.

The safety of both inmates and employees is a top priority, requiring a minimum number of six officers present at all times.

Fleece said that the officer to inmate ratio can get challenging, as every officer wears a number of different hats.

Nevels pointed out that this “little city” is responsible for feeding, clothing, housing and oftentimes medically treating more than 200 people.

Carmichael previously said that overcrowding causes financial strain, as the jail must spend more money to provide for every inmate.

Jail officials have explored a number of options to help tackle overcrowding.

Grant County Commissioners had previously entertained several ideas about renovating the juvenile detention center to house female inmates as a way to address overcrowding. The options ranged in projected renovation costs between $138,000 and $197,000, with some of the options also including the hiring of three additional staff members.

Nevels said any plans involving the D-Home renovations have been taken off the table at this time.

He said that despite his efforts, no progress was being made to create a resolution.

“We got tired of kicking that can down the road, so I just kicked it into a bush,” Nevels said.

Instead, Nevels said he has set his sights on increasing the pay for his officers, hoping that higher salaries will help retain employees.

Negotiations between the county and the International Union of Police Association (IUPA) Local 825, which represents all department employees, are ongoing. IUPA Local 825 president Matt Ogden has previously said the Grant County Council has fallen behind the statewide pace of rising salaries for law enforcement officers, which has led some employees to leave for higher-paying jobs in surrounding counties.

“Our biggest hurdle we deal with is the salary,” Nevels said.

While both courses of action seem to have stalled for the moment, there are also state laws that could offer relief for the overcrowding problem.

Some statutes like House Bill 1078, which passed on May 5, would allow a court to relocate a person convicted of a Level 6 felony to the Indiana Department of Correction if they were a violent offender or had two prior unrelated felony convictions.

Fleece said there are a number of caveats to overcrowding legislation, especially considering most inmates in the jail are currently awaiting trial.

Carmichael estimates that only about 14 percent of all inmates have been sentenced.

Though it’s hard to know exactly why, jail officials theorize that the overcrowding problem is heavily drug-related.

“It all goes hand in hand,” Nevels said.

Officials also believe that the current recidivism rate, or the tendency of a convicted criminal to reoffend, is extremely high.

They estimate that 80 percent of the inmate population has been in the jail previously.

“We know most of the people by name. … We’d love for our population to be lower. It’s not by choice,” Cpl. Bobbi Stitnicky said.

Fleece said the jail works closely with other agencies to help keep the inmate population down, utilizing pretrial release programs, reentry programs and lowered bond amounts whenever possible.

No matter how or why the jail is overcrowded, Nevels said he knows the importance of keeping the jail running efficiently.

“Regardless of overcrowding, we’re still open. … We don’t close,” he said.
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