Porter County Sheriff David Lain says the unopened portion of the Porter County Jail is ready to go. | Michael Gard/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 16, 2014 6:04AM
VALPARAISO — Porter County Sheriff David Lain said during a media tour Monday that his department would have enough officers to open the third pod of the county jail by the end of May.
While that will alleviate overcrowding in the jail’s other two pods, the jail will still be at capacity, with inmates just spread out across the entire building.
The jail was built in 2002 to house 454 prisoners, and had a census last weekend of 450, jail commander Ron Gaydos said.
“This is not so we can bring more inmates in. This will accommodate the inmates already in here,” Lain said of the third pod, adding that the census typically is about 400 inmates.
The jail is not housing any Indiana Department of Correction prisoners now, though Lain said that varies, and is housing 20 federal prisoners, which is subject to change as well.
Lain and other county officials have long pointed out that the jail overcrowding opens the county to legal liability, and state corrections officials have also raised concerns about the situation.
Having the entire jail open for inmates is “litigation prevention,” Lain said. “The Constitution requires we provide a safe and healthy environment for those who are housed here, and it’s more difficult when people are crammed in.”
The situation is not likely to get better come July 1, when the corrections department changes its procedures and more low-level felons, such as those convicted for drunken driving, may remain at the county jail instead of moving to a state prison, the sheriff said.
The third pod has not been used for inmates since the jail opened because of a lack of jail guards to staff the area.
“It hasn’t been open all these years because of manpower, and it’s still an issue,” Lain said.
Like the other sections of the jail, the third pod, known as officially as B pod, offers cells with double bunks and toilets. Some cells have windows. A satellite control center gives jail guards a view of the six units in B pod, both visually and via close circuit television.
The third pod is the smallest of the jail’s three wings, with 109 beds. Jail officials said the renovation of B pod to get it ready to house inmates started the first week in March and was complete in about five weeks at a cost of $234,072.
The county council budgeted $450,000 to hire nine additional officers to staff the pod, and the board of commissioners freed up $1.4 million from the refinancing of a jail bond issue to ready the pod for inmates.
Five of the nine new officers have been hired, and four more are undergoing background checks, Gaydos said, and could begin training in the next few weeks. The new hires will bring total department manpower to 72, including those working security at the county courthouse, Gaydos said.
Once the third pod opens, though, the overcrowding issue should be resolved for the foreseeable future, Lain said, adding that the jail is designed so more pods can be added if eventually needed.