Our Opinion: Fully staffing jail is a necessity

Monday, August 27, 2018

The Greene County Council is going to be faced with a tough decision today when faced with whether to spend some of the money acquired through the Public Safety Local Income Tax.

At the July meeting, Council president Jerry Frye said the council needed to start considering using the funds accrued from the tax to help the current jail facility reach the number of jailers needed, based on a federal study done at the jail.

According to the study, sought by Sheriff Mike Hasler, the jail needs seven more jailers to be considered fully staffed.

Earlier this week, Frye mentioned again that the council needs to consider using the funds to get the jail staffing where it needs to be, especially as they prepare for the new jail addition to open.

Late last year, the council voted to approve the Public Safety Tax as they move forward with jail construction -- a much-needed project as inmate numbers far surpassed the number of beds available at the facility.

Unfortunately, these changes are needed. Crime is not going away, but instead the use of drugs continues to not only drive up the number of inmates but changes the type of inmates in the county jails.

The push for additional jailers has been slowly addressed in recent years, with the council adding two more jailers to the rotation last year. Itís not cheap adding county employees, by the time you consider salary and benefits. Itís not like the council can track down thousands of dollars to set aside for jail staff, but itís a necessary consideration.

According to statistics compiled by the Vera Institute of Justice in 2015, the average cost per inmate in Indiana is $18,065. The report explains the data is found by calculating the total state spending in prisons and dividing it by the average daily prison population. Should something major happen due to a lack of jail staff, that number could dramatically increase should the county be sued for negligence due to insufficient resources.

Sheriff Hasler has noted the use of certain drugs like methamphetamine has also affected the type of inmate the jail sees, with mental health issues becoming a bigger problem.

Itís a scary thought to potentially be face-to-face with an individual who has no regard for their own lives, let alone someone elseís.

Is the life and well-being of a jail staff member worth squabbling over dollars and cents?

The jail staff work one-on-one with these offenders on a daily basis. They oversee the daily activities, transport throughout the jail for visits with family or attorneys, and the jail tries to offer programs for the offenders.

Despite all the issues faced by officers of all kinds -- whether it be road deputies or jail officers -- our local law enforcement have done an excellent job working with the few resources they have to target individuals who are bringing crime to our streets.

The sheriff has reassured the council no matter what the decision, the jail will continue to operate efficiently and to the best of its ability.

Now, itís up to our countyís fiscal leaders to make the tough choice on how to efficiently move forward.

The next Greene County Council meeting is Aug. 27 at 4 p.m.