Sheriff rehashes overcrowding issues
As part of Tuesday’s presentation about the proposed jail expansion, Greene County Sheriff Mike Hasler explained issues with the current lack of space.
Hasler explained part of his job is to keep the Greene County Commissioners apprised of the status of the jail, as a county-owned facility. While the jail is still in great physical condition, recent legislation has resulted in more inmates being housed in the Greene County Jail.
“Today our count was 86. That’s the lowest in six months,” Hasler said.
When the discussion about the proposed expansion of the Greene County Jail was talked about, the average daily population has surpassed 100 inmates. The facility has a total of 84 beds, but has an operational capacity of 68. The “operational capacity” allows the jail to separate inmates as needed.
The major issue which has caused more inmates to be housed at the county level for longer periods of time was House Bill 1006. The bill reclassified crimes, making the move from Class D felonies to Level 6 felonies, which are now housed at the county level instead of the Indiana Department of Corrections.
“We have been written up for overcrowding issues,” Hasler stressed.
In addition, Hasler said inmates have to be put into classifications of minimum, medium and maximum security. The classifications have to remain separated in bunks and daily activities.
Those classifications also mean the jail has to split up inmates even further to attend programs offered at the jail. What was once a one-hour process for all inmates is now a three hour, multiple class process. This issue leads to lack of space for meetings with lawyers and depositions taken outside of the secure area, which also takes away the limited jail staff.
Hasler cited an influx of drug-related crimes as another issue, especially methamphetamine and opioids, brings in more of the lower level felonies.
“We are not dealing with mental illness, but mental disease,” Hasler said, noting the need for extra room to house inmates not fit for the general population.
Along with drug-related issues, Hasler said drugs also bring along an increase in the female population. The facility has 16 female beds, with a current total of 20 female inmates. Ten years ago, the total female population sat at 13 percent, but is now 23 percent and shows no signs of going back down.
“Substance abuse is not gender specific,” Hasler explained.
Aside from overcrowding issues, Hasler said he would like to have the issue with the laundry facilities addressed. If the project were to move forward, he would like to see the laundry facilities moved upstairs away from the kitchen facilities. This would allow the jail staff to separate the departments with male and female staff instead of utilizing all female staff for both departments to broaden the use of inmate workers.
In addition, Hasler said moving the laundry facilities would reduce the amount of stress put on the elevator in the building which is also used to transport meals.
Hasler reiterated the current jail is in great shape, but he is working to keep the county updated on potential issues -- including potential lawsuits, considering some inmates had made complaints to the ACLU.
“The jail is in good shape, but we ran out of space,” Hasler said.