Lake council debates funding new jail positions
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent April 9, 2014 12:00PM
Updated: April 9, 2014 9:37PM
CROWN POINT — County officials need to find at least $1.2 million to meet a Department of Justice mandate for 24 additional correctional officers for the Lake County Jail.
The hires follow the addition of 30 correctional officers added in 2013 to meet the first part of a mandate by the DOJ that staffing at the jail be increased to satisfy the settlement of a 2007 civil lawsuit filed by inmates claiming inhumane conditions and inadequate healthcare at the jail under the administration of Sheriff Roy Dominguez. The DOJ has been monitoring the jail with semi-annual inspections since 2011.
Council President Ted Bilski, D-Hobart, said the 24 officers is a reduction in the number of officers the federal agency originally insisted be hired. The DOJ ordered a total of 65 new correctional officers for the jail.
However, finding the money to pay for the officers is another matter.
While the DOJ has ordered the additional employees and substantial improvements to the jail building, but is not providing funding.
Councilman Jerome Prince, D-Gary, said officials have few options to fund the DOJ requirements. Council President Ted Bilski, D-Hobart, agreed, saying officials will have to look at several options to find the cash.
“It’s going to be a compilation of several items,” Bilski said.
Council members will be looking to Sheriff John Buncich to trim some costs from his budget, including overtime spending. Councilman Eldon Strong, R-Crown Point, said he thinks the sheriff does have some line items that can be reduced to help pay for the officers.
Bilski said officials may also have to use some public safety county income tax dollars to fund the new salaries. If that is the case, something currently funded by those dollars will have to be reduced or moved to the general fund.