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Allen County Commissioners say they’re working on long-term jail solution

First public meeting to discuss possible new jail
First public meeting to discuss possible new jail(wpta)
Published: Jun. 17, 2022 at 3:29 PM EDT
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - The Allen County Commissioners responded on Friday after a federal judge said their plan to reduce overcrowding and remedy “inhumane” conditions at the Allen County Jail wasn’t good enough.

The ACLU of Indiana’s Legal Director said on Thursday that the judge found the county’s proposal did not properly address his order. That order required a definite plan and timeline, and he said the situation must be rectified quickly. The judge set an August 25 hearing to review the new plan to ensure it is in compliance with his order.

Commissioner Nelson Peters spent part of Friday morning’s meeting emphasizing action steps he says county officials have taken to address the situation, including off-loading inmates to Noble and LaGrange County, stepping up recruiting efforts, and sending level 6 offenders back to state penitentiaries. The commissioners say they are still researching funding and location options for constructing a new jail. An architect could be on board by next week, but they say nothing is set in stone at this point.

Officials say they are also meeting with mental health professionals and advocates to discuss providing better treatment for inmates. Peters estimates that 20% of those incarcerated suffer from serious mental health concerns and their needs aren’t being met right now. He insists there’s plenty going on behind the scenes to remedy the problem that they weren’t able to communicate to the judge or the public.

“But when you have the largest single public works project in Allen County history, it isn’t something that you can pull the trigger on without a little bit of time. We’re trying to put the pieces together the best we can to serve the citizens of Allen County, to maintain the civil liberties of the jail population, and get the best result on a long-term basis,” Peters said.

He says action taken by county officials has reduced the inmate population below the 732 inmate threshold set by the judge, saying it has made them question how much additional space is actually needed. Peters says it would be four years minimum before a new jail could begin accepting inmates.

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