County jails ask legislators for help with overcrowding

Indiana’s recent criminal justice reforms are contributing to overcrowding and rising costs at county jails across the state, including Bartholomew County, jail officials said.

A recent surge in the number of inmates housed in local county jails mirrors a statewide trend that is due, in part, to the state’s criminal justice reform efforts over the past few years, when the number of felony classes and mandated that certain low-level felons be sent to county jails instead of state prisons.

The shift has left many county jails struggling to make room for the influx of inmates and keep up with the costs of housing them.

“(The county jail population) just keeps going up,” said Maj. John Martoccia, Bartholomew County Jail commander. “It’s been a struggle. I think any jail would tell you that. Most of the (county) jails are overcrowded.”

In January 2016, the Bartholomew County Jail had a daily average of 157 inmates, jail statistics show. By August 2017, that number had jumped to 235. In February, the jail population reached 266 – the highest in the jail’s history.

As of March 8, there were 239 inmates in the Bartholomew County Jail, in a facility that currently has 232 beds. The extra inmates sleep in moveable plastic bunks in the common area of the cell block, Martoccia said.

Currently, Bartholomew County is housing 42 inmates who are Level 6 felons serving their sentences, which is approximately 18 percent of the jail’s overall population, Martoccia said.

For more on this story, see Wednesday’s Republic.