Bartholomew County jail inmates broke out their cell doors and injured jail staff, also flooding a cell block, in a Labor Day melee that caused thousands of dollars in damage.

Sheriff Matt Myers talked with the Bartholomew County commissioners and county council members Tuesday about the incidents, which are being are being attributed to overcrowding at the jail and not having enough staff or operational space.

Myers told county officials damage to the cell doors alone is estimated at $8,000.

The incidents were first reported when Bartholomew County Jail Capt. Nicole Kinman was sent to the jail following a report Monday that inmate Joe Reed, 37, of 1422 Seventh St., had kicked out a section of his cell door. Reed has been in jail since May 19 when he was arrested on two separate warrants for unlawful possession of a syringe and criminal trespassing, and the second for intimidation and conversion. He is being held in lieu of $25,000 bond, jail officials said.

Story continues below gallery

Reed was moved to another section of the jail, but then inmate Jordan Rhoades, 21, of 465 Clifty Drive, kicked out a section of his cell door, tore apart the bottom of the grated door and obtained metal rods that he began using as a weapon, deputies said.

Rhoades is awaiting sentencing Sept. 20 in Bartholomew Superior Court 1 for throwing chairs at Bartholomew Superior Court 2 court staff in a courtroom incident Feb. 9. In that incident, he damaged computer equipment and hit a deputy prosecutor in the leg, slightly injuring him. In Monday’s incident, Rhoades is accused of taking the metal rods and throwing them at jail staff members, injuring three, before stun guns were used to subdue him, Myers said.

Kinman was injured when one of the rods hit her in the abdomen, and she also suffered an abrasion to her lower left leg, deputies said. Sgt. Tim Burdine and Sgt. Kyle Weaver also received minor injuries, Myers said.

Reed and Rhoades were placed in confinement pending disciplinary review, Myers said.

In addition to the incident with those two inmates, flooding was caused by other inmates who blocked the bottom of their cell doors and allowed showers and toilets to overflow, Myers said. When the water went through the doors, it flooded several levels of the jail including the work-release area.

“Jails across the state are bursting at the seams and BCJ is feeling the pinch, causing tensions to mount,” Myers said. “We will maintain order. It is just more difficult with the increased number of inmates,” he said. “We are working with members of the county council to find ways that we can open up additional operational space.”

Kinman said overcrowding has caused the jail staff to be unable to classify inmates properly, causing serious issues.

Kinman and Myers said since 2015, Indiana has required Level 6 offenders to be housed in county jails rather than the state’s prison population, and while the jail had no Level 6 prisoners the first year, the jail housed 76 of the inmates in 2016.

“Currently, we do not have the operational space nor the staff to take on this influx,” Myers said.

The jail had nearly 250 inmates in the facility when the incident occurred, although the jail’s current capacity is 232, the sheriff told county officials Tuesday night.

Additional staff, additional operational space and the ability to once again classify inmates properly could solve the issues that led to Monday’s incidents, jail officials said.

Without classification, everyone is housed together, everyone is at risk and everyone is punished for the acts of others, Myers said in the news release.

At the recommendation of the Indiana Department of Correction, Myers said he hired a consultant, completed a Six Sigma project on the issue and came up with a five-year plan for jail operation, but none of the plans work without enough staff or operational space, he said.

“Overcrowding, although beyond our control, has increased tensions,” Myers said. “The jail has been damaged and my staff has been hurt. If the incidents which occurred over the past weekend are not powerful enough evidence to show the need to increase our staffing levels and to provide additional operational space, I don’t know what is,” he said.

Pull Quote

“The jail has been damaged and my staff has been hurt. If the incidents which occurred over the past weekend are not powerful enough evidence to show the need to increase our staffing levels and to provide additional operational space, I don’t know what is.”

— Bartholomew County Sheriff Matt Myers

Author photo
Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.