Jail spending in Porter County expected to spike
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent August 30, 2012 8:42PM
Updated: October 1, 2012 6:07PM
VALPARAISO — A huge jump in spending for the Porter County Jail in the coming year for additional medical staff and enough officers to open a third, unused jail pod must be accounted for in the rest of the county’s budget, County Council President Dan Whitten, D-At-large, said Thursday during budget hearings.
Preliminary figures from a federal National Institute of Corrections staffing review — the final report is expected next week — call for almost $1.5 million in additional staffing, Sheriff David Lain said.
That would include 16 officers for the jail pod, which Lain said would be enough for now but not for the long term, and seven registered nurses. The jail does not have medical staff overnight; many cases end up being sent to the emergency room needlessly because no one can fully evaluate the inmates, Lain said.
“That is going to create a substantial recurring cost to our general fund,” Whitten said.
While Board of Commissioners President John Evans, R-North, and Commissioner Nancy Adams, R-Center, started the hearing by offering $2 million in County Economic Development Income Tax funds to help the county make up an estimated $1.7 million to $1.9 million budget deficit, money not meant to be a permanent fixture in the budget each year.
The council will revisit the jail budget once the full report is in from the National Institute of Corrections.
Lain drafted a letter to county officials in May outlining his concerns about overcrowding at the jail and the lack of around-the-clock medical care for inmates.
He reiterated those concerns Tuesday, noting that the county’s greatest liability is the need for more accessible medical care at the jail, and Councilman Jim Biggs, R-1st District, agreed.
“By constitutional law, whether you like it or not, those prisoners have to have every medical advantage we have out here, and if you don’t provide it, like it or not, you are financially liable,” he said.