County Council hears preliminary plan to tackle jail overcrowding

The Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department presented a preliminary plan Monday night to address overcrowding and other issues at the jail. The proposal was unveiled during a work session of the Bartholomew County Council.

Sheriff Matt Myers says the plan has three components and three goals. He says those include “getting the building right,” resolving overcrowding and making it easier to treat drug-addicted inmates. As for implementing these improvements, the Sheriff says that improvements such as updated video surveillance and body scanning are needed. He went on to say that flexibility, leveraging both sections of the jail and proper inmate classification are needed as well. As for treating inmates, Sheriff Myers says that the jail will need dedicated space, staff and resources to help treat inmates who want help detoxing. The treatment portion would include funding support from the city of Columbus gained from the recently enacted increase in the county’s local income-tax, which Columbus was a major beneficiary.

Myers stressed that his department is still compiling figures and quotes, so he isn’t comfortable attaching a dollar figure at this time. BCSD staff making the presentation say they tried to provide “conservative estimates,” but council members urged them to also compile figures for a more aggressive approach.

Councilman Jorge Morales thanked Myers and his staff for their work in compiling the presentation and agreed that steps need to be taken to address jail overcrowding and the opiate epidemic. He also expressed concern that the funding for such an endeavor would be inadequate. Morales was initially against the LIT increase, arguing that the city of Columbus’ finances would benefit while the county continues to struggle. During Monday night’s work session, he again echoed that complaint and strongly suggested that the city would need to play a large part in funding a treatment facility at the jail. Morales was quickly reminded by councilwoman Laura DeDomenic that the county cannot control what the city does with its money. However, council members, Sheriff Myers and county commissioners in attendance all agreed that city officials are acting in good faith to help come up with, and fund, drug treatment options.

No action was taken during Monday night’s work session. The County Council is scheduled to meet in full session next Tuesday, Feb. 13th.