Porter County Council, in split vote, rejects funding for jailers to open third pod
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent October 3, 2013 11:22PM
Updated: November 5, 2013 6:40AM
VALPARAISO — With a 4-3 vote, the Porter County Council put the kibosh — for now — on bringing in nine more jailers to open the third pod of the county jail.
The move came Thursday during the council’s last in a series of budget hearings. While all of the council members agreed on the need for the staffing, the majority was concerned about where the funding would come from, and the need to look at lowering the jail population through greater use of community corrections and other options.
“I’m not against it. I’m trying to find where the nickels are coming from,” said council President Bob Poparad, D-At-large, adding he would prefer to consider the matter at the end of the budget process, when the council has a complete picture of its finances.
Voting against the staffing were Poparad; Dan Whitten, D-At-large; Sylvia Graham, D-At-large; and Karen Conover, R-3rd District.
Council members in favor of it were Jim Biggs, R-1st District; Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd District; and Jim Polarek, R-4th District.
“I’m afraid if it’s not in there now, it won’t go in,” Polarek said.
Sheriff David Lain has said the cost of hiring the officers would be $50,000 each. The council did grant his request for two officers to assist the jail’s medical staff, but that was separate from the need for the jailers for the third pod.
The nine jailers, said Ken Whipker, executive director for sheriff and county jail operations with the Indiana Department of Correction, would be “bare bones” for managing the additional pod.
While Lain said a National Institute of Corrections study recommended as many as 46 jailers, nine additional jailers, along with the existing staff, would be sufficient. “I am confident we can run a safe and secure jail, not an idyllic jail.”
The county needs to take a broader look at controlling the jail population, Whitten said. Even with the third pod open, Lain said, the jail would be at capacity with its current population.
“We can open the third pod and do what the sheriff is asking, and we still have a problem,” Whitten said.
Board of Commissioners President John Evans, R-North, suggested seeing where the budget is, getting the jailers in line, and putting together a committee that includes the judiciary to look at ways to decrease the jail population.
The council voted 5-2 to pass the jail’s $2.9 million budget. Commissioners are providing an additional $1.2 million in county economic development income tax funds to cover medical staffing.
Biggs and Polarek voted against the jail budget. “It’s not fixing anything,” Polarek said.
The council is scheduled to approve the budget Oct. 22.