PRINCETON — Gibson County Jail's overcrowding and understaffing issues that prompted a written warning from the Indiana Department of Corrections earlier this summer pose a "serious concern" to the county's insurance underwriters, Gibson County Commissioners were told Tuesday morning.
Frank Krisanits, Regional President of Old National Insurance Risk Partners, told commissioners that courts have established minimum staffing guidelines and the current situation at the local jail's staffing may be a serious concern from the underwriting standpoint. "We're very concerned," said Krisanits, who noted that he's not an underwriter, but as the insurance broker, the situation may be mean more costly insurance or problems getting coverage.
Sheriff Tim Bottoms reported Tuesday that the average inmate population lat month was 143, with a census of 144 Tuesday. The jail's work release center averaged 27 inmates last month.
Board of Commissioners President Alan Douglas said commissioners have been discussing how to deal with the situation. "We understand it's a very serious issue," agreed commissioner Steve Bottoms.
The board asked Krisanits to attend the 8 a.m. Oct. 16 session of the Gibson County Council, which sets the number of employees at the jail.
The sheriff said the staffing is a challenge, especially when jail inmates are moved to the work release center to relieve overcrowding, which means the limited number of corrections officers are traveling back and forth between facilities.
"We will be proposing to the Gibson County Council to hire new help," Douglas said.
The DOC's July inspection of the jail resulted in a letter that orders the county to come up with a plan in 180 days to solve the problem. The Aug. 2 letter to commissioners says the jail and county commissioners are not in compliance with state code regulating operation of jails and that commissioners have failed to maintain and provide a jail to the sheriff that meets state code.
During the inspection, according to the DOC letter, the jail exceeded its rated capacity, inmates were sleeping on the floor or portable bunks, and "since the jail has greatly exceeded its rated capacity, additional staffing is required just to ensure the safety and security of the facility and meet the inmate needs.”
The inspector's letter said the overcrowding and inadequate staffing "will lead to a critical incident in the jail.”
The jail, built in1989, was the subject of a class action federal lawsuit filed on behalf of inmates by the Indiana Civil Liberties Union in 2003 regarding overcrowded conditions. Commissioners signed a settlement agreement in 2007 that stopped the lawsuit, which alleged that the jail was overcrowded 80 percent of the time and was insufficiently staffed.