County works to prevent jail riots

Reinforcement of cell doors at the Bartholomew County Jail may prevent what was described as a “mini riot” from occurring again.

Bartholomew County Commissioners decided Monday to spend $2,255 to purchase materials necessary for reinforcing the bottom metal mesh portions of each cell door at the jail.

Maintenance staff will install 80 steel bar plates ordered from Ace Welding Machine of Columbus. Stainless steel hardware is also being obtained that will secure the plates in each door.

The most recent problems occurred Sept. 4 after inmate Joe Reed, 37, kicked out a section of his cell door.

Although Reed was moved to another cell, a second inmate — Jordan Rhoades, 21 — kicked out a section of his cell door and removed the mesh, jail officials said.

Rhoades managed to wind up the mesh into a baton shape before he threw it at a high-ranking jailer, commissioners chairman Carl Lienhoop said.

His commissioner colleague, Larry Kleinhenz, described the incident as a “mini riot.”

This type of damage caused by inmates takes place once or twice a month, Kleinhenz said.

Bartholomew County Jail Capt. Nicole Kinman suffered minor abdominal and lower leg injuries during the Sept. 4 incident. Two other jail officers were also slightly hurt during the Labor Day weekend incident.

“Hopefully, this reinforcement will keep them from being able to totally push out the grating again,” Lienhoop said.

During the Labor Day weekend incident, flooding was caused by other inmates who blocked the bottom of their cell doors and allowed showers and toilets to overflow, Bartholomew County Sheriff Matt Myers said.

When the water went through the doors, it flooded several levels of the jail, including the work-release area, the sheriff said.

Total damage was initially estimated at $8,000 by Myers in early September.

Since the jail had 18 more inmates than its official capacity at the time, Myers described the incidents as consequences of jail overcrowding, as well as a lack of staff and operational space.

A study released earlier this year states current jail staffing is 16 full-time positions lower than the standard set by the Indiana Department of Correction.

On Oct. 10, the council gave final approval to a 2018 budget that provides five additional correction staff members and 10 part-time jail employees.