Due to substance abuse, the Grant County Jail’s inmate population has spiked leading to multiple problems for the jail.
The Grant County Jail has a capacity of 274, but holds an inmate population that often extends beyond 300. The burden of additional inmates has increased inmate fighting, added additional stress for jail staff and caused a financial hit to the facility, said Grant County Jail Commander Lt. Kevin Carmichael.
The jail currently averages between 20 and 35 inmates over capacity on a daily basis, according to Carmichael.
“The problem has peaked in the last two and a half to three months,” he added.
The cause of these arrests generally involve drug addictions, especially heroin, said Capt. Todd Fleece of the Grant County Sheriff’s Department.
Overcrowding leads to a number of issues, Carmichael said. Chief among those are financial blows. More inmates mean more money spent on food and medical expenses. It also leads to more stress for staff members who must keep an eye on more bodies, and inmates, who find themselves in more fights than normal.
In the jail upwards of 65 to 70 inmates are unable to sleep in a tradition cell bed, Carmichael said. Instead, inmates use beds which can be easily moved around to fit the needs of the prison.
The beds are convenient since they can be stacked up when they are not in use to save space. These stackable beds are not only a common solution for the Grant County Jail, but for jails across the nation, Carmichael added.
The Grant County Jail is attempting to decrease recidivism rates in hopes it will bring down the overall jail population. One possible solution is Moral Reconation Therapy for male inmates, which aims to decrease recidivism through increasing moral reasoning, according to Carmichael.
The course focuses on inmates who struggle with drug and alcohol-related abuse. The moral reasoning aspect of the course tries to get inmates to understand how their life choices impact their family and loved ones, Carmichael said.
One aspect of the course, which appealed to jail officials, is that inmates can continue the course through Milestones Addictions Services even after they are released from the jail.
Inmates who take the Moral Reconation Therapy course are housed together in the same cell block in order to keep them separate from inmates who may not be as committed as they are to improving their lives.
Seeking Safety is a course offered for female inmates. This program aims to help inmates who have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, as well as those who struggle with substance abuse.
“So many women incarcerated have been abused as a daughter or as a wife or a girlfriend,” Carmichael said.
Up to 85 percent of women who are incarcerated in the United States have been the victim of some kind of battery and many of these incidents are related to substance abuse of some kind, he said.
“We've had some people who have rescinded, but we’re relatively low in graduation (numbers),” Carmichael said.
Since the program is still new, there is a limited sample size to determine how much of an impact the treatments have made.
Carmichael said he will often make a request for the release of an inmate. Typically, the jail looks for repeat trial offenders who do not have any crime against a person, he said. Once an inmate has been selected for potential release, the jail’s commander sends a request to the courts. The courts review each request on a case by case basis before making a decision.
"Those are cases where we just can't use the bedspace," said Judge Warren Haas, who presides over Superior Court III.
Rarely is someone’s sentence reduced, though, Haas said. If a sentenced inmate is released, it’s within a week of their expected release date, he added.
Some of the most common releases involve crimes such as battery without injury, substance abuse and driving with a suspended license, the judge added.
There are multiple judges who have authority to release an inmate: general jurisdiction judges, the magistrate and even judges in Gas City and Marion share the responsibility, Haas said.
“We're doing the best we can. We are really fortunate that Grant County has been pretty proactive trying to manage everyone in the criminal justice system,” Fleece said.
“It's really going to take the community (to fix the drug problem). I don't think there's a silver bullet to really help turn this around,” he added.