Todd Manuel spent 103 days in Allen County Jail and it's not an experience he wants to repeat.
“When I was there, I saw some things that weren't the best,” said Manuel, 33, who was incarcerated after his third drunk driving offense in March 2019. He pleaded guilty in May 2019, spent some time on house arrest and is in the middle of three years' probation, which requires him to pay $30 per month.
Manuel agreed to send The Journal Gazette a letter signed by 61 inmates, including his cousin, William T. Pope, 26. Manuel began drinking while attending DePauw University and continued when he transferred to Indiana Tech, where he received a business management degree in 2015.
In late December, Pope was arrested on charges of drunken driving and driving with a suspended license, a misdemeanor charge, and is serving his sentence at Community Corrections after being incarcerated at the Allen County Jail.
Besides the complaints the 61 inmates outlined, Manuel, who is in the printing business and was released Oct. 6, has other concerns that he shared during a telephone interview with The Journal Gazette.
“What really bothers me is that you can't have physical books anymore,” Manuel said. Inmates can use jail-owned tablets and pay for texting, but there are limitations even on the free books, which he says are not user-friendly and require constant pressing to access the middle of a book.
Manuel also said he saw constant fighting.
“I hated it. The fist fighting, (the guards) would turn a blind eye to that kind of stuff,” he said.
Steve Stone, spokesman for the Allen County Sheriff's Department, said if inmates get into a physical altercation “confinement officers intervene and take the appropriate actions to protect the inmates. If warranted, (confinement officers) file the appropriate charges (that would include) calling in the detective bureau to investigate.”
Manuel acknowledges being a confinement officer is not easy. The walls are gray with little outside light, the cells are overcrowded and there aren't enough guards, he said.
Sheriff David Gladieux agrees. He estimates he needs about 40 more confinement officers than the current 140 to properly staff the 40-year-old jail, modified in 2004, but with design challenges, he said.
“I have to be fair,” Manuel said. “I think these blocks have like 80 people with one or two (guards) max. They turn a blind eye to a lot of things because it's so much work for them. I truly believe that they're kind of overworked. The only thing they can do is lock you down for anything, smoking, a fight. If the entire block is locked down, then you get one shower every three days.”
If you're not on lockdown, you are supposed to get a shower every day, Manuel added.
Besides dealing with showers, guards serve breakfast, lunch and dinner with the help of trusties and handle inmates going to court, twice a day, Manuel said. Confinement guards also are tasked with conducting random searches, he added.
Visits with family are conducted over screens installed on walls in the common area.
“The screen is on the block so everyone can see it and that's what I hated,” he said.
“There are people in there who are totally innocent and we often forget about that. A certain percentage is innocent, at least of the crime they're in there for.”
Some make the argument “you're in jail, that's what you get,” Manuel said, “but you can't have that argument for some of these guys.”