Jackson County commissioners plan to move ahead with a short-term plan to ease overcrowding at the jail while examining some of the reasons for that overcrowding with an eye toward fixing the problem.
A change in state law at the beginning of the year requires counties to hold anyone convicted of a Level 6 felony and sentenced to a year or less.
Sheriff Michael Carothers believes that move will push the population of the 177-bed jail to 300 by year’s end unless more space to house prisoners is found.
On Wednesday, the inmate count was 242.
In the past, Carothers has said one quick fix to relieve some of the strain would be converting the outdoor recreation area into space for 32 inmates and moving the females into that space.
Carothers estimates that move would cost about $450,000.
Commissioners President Matt Reedy said obtaining quotes would give commissioners something to work with when they approached county council for a request to fund the work.
In a related matter, Reedy said he has looked into the issue of why the Jackson County Jail is overcrowded and others of similar size are not.
Carothers said he recently talked with Bartholomew County Sheriff Matt Myers about the issue and was told by Myers that the inmate count there was about 140 per day.
Reedy said he could not understand why a county nearly twice as big as Jackson County had a much lower inmate count.
Commissioner Tom Joray agreed and said he knew it wasn’t because Bartholomew County didn’t have drug issues similar to Jackson County.
Carothers said Bartholomew County often releases those arrested on drug and other minor charges without requiring them to post bond.
That allows those people to get back out on the street and perhaps get into trouble again, he said.
Reedy said he would like to meet with Carothers and the county’s three judges to see if there is something that could be done to help speed up the justice system here in an effort to provide some long-term relief to jail overcrowding.
Carothers agreed to set up that meeting.