ANDERSON – Seeking to ease the overcrowding at the Madison County Detention Center, the county is planning to hire a case manager.
County and judicial officials have been meeting regularly to develop a plan to deal with the high population count at the jail, which was built in 1982 to house 207 inmates. There were 290 on Thursday.
Commissioner John Richwine said the county has developed a job description for a case manager.
The commissioners have not determined what the cost will be, but Richwine said the County Council will be asked to fund the position next Thursday.
“We would like to have the person hired by Sept. 1,” he said. “Since the position would be funded through the end of the year, that could be a trial period.”
Richwine said the case manager would review each of the cases.
“We want to make sure the people in jail, need to be in jail,” he said.
Richwine said the county is looking for a case manager who understands the law and the judicial process, possibly a lawyer looking to ease their caseload before retiring.
“The case manager would take a more in-depth look at each case,” he said. “Look at why an individual is in jail.”
In some cases, Richwine said, an inmate could be placed on in-home detention or have bond lowered.
Madison Circuit Court Division 3 Judge Thomas Newman Jr., the chief judge for the court system, said a case manager could help lower the jail population, if done properly.
“We’ve had these issues before,” Newman said. “We hired a case manager that had two jobs, one as a bean counter and the other to move cases along.”
Newman said it didn’t work.
“The county is not thinking outside the box,” he said. “I’m going to propose a local rule that, if a person is in the jail for more than 20 days on a probation violation, the case be assigned to a criminal magistrate.”
Newman said an effective case manager knows the status of every case in terms of hearings and possible plea agreements.
“I’m in favor of a case manager,” he said. “Right now, two or three times a week, we get a list of people that might be released.
“I go over my cases,” Newman said. “I don’t want anyone released early except by me. That’s already being done.”
Madison County Sheriff Scott Mellinger said the case manager proposal has merits.
“If all the courts are willing to take a good hard look at programs and bond reform,” he said. “The Community Justice Center indicated they could take an additional 25 to 30 people on day reporting.”
Mellinger said the jail population in recent weeks has been averaging 290 in a facility designed for 207 inmates.
“If we could get the numbers down to 240 or 250 per day that would make a big difference in operations,” he said.
Madison County officials are facing a deadline from the Indiana Department of Correction to develop a plan to deal with jail overcrowding.
“This is a result of the jail inspection,” county attorney Ashley Hopper said. “We have to develop a plan of action that addresses the issue.”
There is a deadline, but it has been extended by the state, she said.
Hopper said the plan will recommend changes to the local criminal justice process.
Hopper said the National Institute of Corrections is providing technical support to the county.
“They will provide training and an analysis of the jail and court system and make recommendations on the pretrial process,” she said.