Indiana law meant to decrease overcrowding in county jails

Indiana law meant to decrease overcrowding in county jails
Published: Jun. 30, 2022 at 7:09 PM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - On Friday, an Indiana House Bill takes effect that allows Level 6 felons to once again be sent to state correctional facilities, rather than be housed in county jails.

Vanderburgh County officials hope the change will take away the pressure and overcrowding.

People enter the Vanderburgh County Jail through two metal sliding doors, one opens after the other.

Inside, the facility is not only at maximum capacity, but Vanderburgh County Sheriff Dave Wedding says it’s well over, and they usually are.

“We routinely have more inmates in our custody than we have adequate bed space,” says Wedding.

County officials say they’ve had to resort to pushing bunk beds into the common areas of cell blocks. All of the extra inmates make life hard on guards and faculty.

Guards like Lieutenant Brandon Feller, who’s worked at the jail for 18 years, know they don’t have the proper facilities to take care of some of these low-level felons.

“Some facilities aren’t equipped for, you know, drug treatment, mental health treatment, stuff like that – that’s needed that they could offer at DOC facilities,” says Feller, “so, it’s going to help ease the burden on overcrowding, and then also get them the help that they need before coming back into the community.”

Feller and Wedding both know this isn’t sustainable, especially with the summer has arrived.

“In the summertime, it always seems like our population goes up, and of course, when you get a large group of people living in very close quarters, tempers seem to flair, and people get agitated,” says Feller.

However, Sheriff Wedding and Lieutenant Feller are each excited that something is finally changing, for the first time since 2014.

“It certainly can’t come fast enough,” says Wedding.

“Well that right there, in and of itself, is going to ease a lot of burden that we have on having all the [Level 6 felons] in house,” says Feller.

The change will take time, but they’re hoping that eventually, their numbers will return to within their maximum capacity.

It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean every Level 6 felon will be sent to state correctional facilities, only that a judge can once again sentence them to that.

Wedding wanted to give a special shoutout to the judges and prosecutors because he knows how in tandem they have to be to make something like this work.

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