The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, August 29, 2018 1:00 am

Sheriffs seek reimbursement spike

Call for $55 per diem from decades-old $35

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Sheriff's Association on Tuesday requested a large jump in the per diem the state pays for local jails to hold low-level, nonviolent felons.

Since a reorganization of the criminal code, jails are busting at the seams partly due to Level 6 felons that are no longer going to the Indiana Department of Correction.

But the state reimbursement to jails of $35 a day hasn't gone up in more than three decades.

Steuben County Sheriff Tim Troyer and Hendricks County Sheriff Brett Clark said a good starting point when looking at average costs and other federal and state reimbursements would be $55 a day. Clark said even sheriffs that have space turn down taking prisoners from overcrowded counties because the reimbursement doesn't cover the costs. One county recently called 33 jails to find space for some female offenders and no sheriff was willing, he said.

The cost to the state would be minimal initially – perhaps $50,000 additional a year.

Fiscal year 2018 showed 2,265 Level 6 felons in county jails, up from 1,644 in fiscal year 2017.

Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, said he thinks sheriffs should be required to take offenders if they have beds but Troyer pointed out a jail might be understaffed and could create a dangerous situation.

The Allen County Jail was built to hold 741 inmates, but 854 men and women were confined this month.

The overall number of felons in both the Indiana Department of Correction and county jails is on the upswing this year after an initial drop starting in 2015 following the criminal code overhaul. That's likely because those convicted of more serious crimes now have to serve 75 percent of sentence instead of 50 percent.

Mark Goodpaster, a fiscal analyst with the Legislative Services Agency, said the average sentence for Level 1 felons – the highest except for murder – is now 15 to 30 years when it was previously 10 to 25 years.

A separate presentation showed that county jails are at 96 percent capacity overall and 47 percent of all inmates are Level 6 felons.

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