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Sheriff should reconsider state prisoner move

The Harrison County Sheriff’s Department recently shipped all of its state prisoners out of the jail and back to the Indiana Department of Corrections because, as Capt. Eric Fischer reported to the board of commissioners last week, the jail was overcrowded.
This seems strange, since the jail has consistently been overcrowded or well-above capacity for some time, and, in fact, still is.
The jail’s capacity is 152 prisoners, and, after the state violators left, it now houses approximately 165.
Housing state prisoners is strictly voluntary but is something the county has done for some time. Each state prisoner brings in about $36 per day to the county. The money goes directly into the county’s general fund, where it can be requested by any county government department or agency and approved by, first, the commissioners and then the county council.
Over time, housing state prisoners can be quite lucrative for the county.
Sheriff G. Michael Deatrick said, in 2007, while defending the use of overtime in the jail, that housing state prisoners brings in about $450,000 per year.
But, for now, it seems that money will no longer be available for the county, which is a shame, since it was always a point of pride for the jail and sheriff’s department, not to mention a large amount of cash for the county to spend on any department.
The housing of state prisoners was often a way for councilmembers to justify approving additional appropriations for the department; now, sheriff’s department representatives won’t have that luxury when they step before the board of commissioners or council to ask for funding.
This funding is especially needed in the current economic climate, with schools dropping staff all across the state and every department feeling the pinch.
The jail likely could function better with less inmates, but if it has managed with the extra prisoners in the past, why not continue to try to make it work?
If at all possible, the sheriff’s department should take advantage of the opportunity to house the prisoners and bring in some extra cash.
The county definitely could use the money, but, maybe even more importantly, positive vibes out of the sheriff’s department are needed now more than ever.

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