Editorial

Greene County Jail: Now and then

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Greene County Board of Commissioners has vowed to ease the burden at the Greene County Jail as it continues to see overcrowding issues.

The 84-bed facility saw a jump to an average daily count of 107 inmates last week alone, with this week’s count around 95, according to Greene County Sheriff Mike Hasler.

Many people are wondering: What caused this and why such an influx of inmates at the county level now?

Greene County Prosecutor Jarrod Holtsclaw was in attendance at the joint session of the commissioners and Greene County Council -- where they discussed the future of the jail -- to explain how the county got to this point.

On July 1, 2014, Indiana Criminal Code was revised, which ultimately had an impact on what is classified as a felony, and how those sentences would be served.

Before the new criminal code was implemented, Holtsclaw said murder was the highest criminal classification, followed by a Class A felony, then B, C and D from highest to lowest. The switch to the new criminal code kept murder as the highest criminal classification, but created levels, with Level 1 as the highest felony to Level 6 being the lowest felony.

“They increased the number of levels, but more importantly they took a lot of things that used to be Class C felonies and some lower level Bs and reduced them down to Level 5s and Level 6s,” Holtsclaw explained. “What we’re seeing now that this code has been implemented over a year is that there are a lot of Level 6 felonies being filed. It seems to me they took some of the more serious felonies and put in the Level 6 category.”

Holtsclaw said it appears the change was done on purpose, considering this put more criminals in county jails and took them out of the state-run Department of Corrections.

“Looking back, I think they did it intentionally because with the changes in the code, they also restricted our ability to send Level 6 felonies to the DOC (Indiana Department of Corrections). In the first year or so, you could send them to the DOC (for Level 6 felonies), but the sentence had to be in excess of a certain amount of days, but now I believe you cannot send a Level 6 felony unless it’s connected to another case or there is another, more serious offense or some sort of mechanism like a probation violation,” Holtsclaw explained.

“Most all Level 6 felonies now you have to take care of at home in your (county) jail or comm corrections facility.”

Looking back, this isn’t the first time Greene County ran into issues with overcrowding. In fact, the current jail was constructed only about 20 years ago, opening its doors in January 1994. Before the current jail was constructed, the older facility, built 30 years prior, had only 22 beds, according to Bloomfield Evening World archives.

In an August 1993 edition of the Bloomfield Evening World, the Greene County Jail was going through what the department is trying to avoid right now: Sending inmates to other facilities at a cost to the county. The county housed 22 inmates, but had to send 29 inmates to other facilities (at a rate of $35 per person, per day.)

Now, the number of inmates in the jail has doubled, and county officials fear it may get worse before it gets better.