Officials want to add jail staffing

County sheriff’s department asks for 7 new jobs

The Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department, using two outside presenters, made an appeal to elected county government leaders to increase staffing at the jail to meet state compliance standards.

The department presented its argument that the Bartholomew County Jail needs to hire 11 more people, but indicated that it will settle for seven in an hour-long presentation Monday to the Bartholomew County Council during its monthly working session.

Based on current pay levels for full-time employees, seven additional staff members would cost a minimum of $244,636 in salary alone, not including health insurance and other benefits.

But if all 11 needed positions were filled, the additional salary cost would rise to at least $384,428, according to figures provided by the county auditor’s office.

A compliance standard established by the Indiana Department of Correction was used Monday for conclusions regarding jail staffing needs.

The council is not expected to take immediate action on the staff-increase request. Instead, Monday’s presentation likely will become part of a five-year comprehensive financial plan to be considered during 2018 budget negotiations in August.

Last week, the county agreed to pay $30,000 to an Indianapolis accounting firm, H.J. Umbaugh & Associates, to help develop that plan.

But at the conclusion of each of the past four jail inspections, the Indiana Department of Correction had requested an analysis such as the one presented Monday, Sheriff Matt Myers said.

When councilman Jorge Morales asked why the sheriff’s department isn’t requesting all 11 positions be filled, presenter Dana Vogt of Cummins Inc., a Six Sigma specialist, said there was an assumption the council would not seriously consider such a large number at one time.

Frequently advocated by long-time council member Evelyn Pence, the Six Sigma process calls for evaluations with the aim of reducing costs and improving quality.

Although clarifications were requested, none of the council members expressed disagreement with the overall conclusions.

The seven positions that both Vogt and Bartholomew County Jail commander Maj. John Martoccia described as priorities for the 232-bed jail include:

  • Two medical positions
  • One to transport inmates and provide security
  • Four staff members trained to fill a variety of assignments when the need arises.

If seven new employees are hired, the jail would use overtime pay and part-time employees to address the remaining four-person personnel gap, Martoccia said.

Last year, county taxpayers paid more than $115,590 in overtime to staff the jail, the report states.

While the jail had an average 156 daily inmates four years ago, that figure is expected to exceed 200 this year, said Al Bennett, a former deputy commissioner for the Indiana Department of Correction, who now operates a consulting business in Plainfield.

Not only are the incarceration numbers going up, but the average stay of an inmate has also gotten longer, the consultant said.

New laws, such as the one now requiring county jails to house low-level felons rather than prisons, are often cited as a key reason for the rise in the local inmate population.

But there’s another factor that also has attributed to the staffing shortage, Martoccia told the council.

“A lot of people being booked in right now are addicted to drugs, and with drugs comes all types of issues,” the jail commander said.

For example, it is the legal duty of the jail to provide medical care, take precautions to prevent an inmate from committing suicide, and from being assaulted by other prisoners, the report stated.

“The failure to fulfill this duty can result in litigation against jail administrators and other county officials,” Bennett warned the council.

Jail population comparison

Annual average number of inmates at the 232-bed Bartholomew County Jail:

2012: 177

2013: 156

2014: 161

2015: 167

2016: 182

2017: Projected to exceed 200

Source: Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.