INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana sheriffs will make an effort in the next few months to pinpoint the causes of overcrowding in jails, one of the first attempts at documenting the recurring problem throughout the state.
"We want to make sure we're pulling in the right data to make recommendations and find solutions through data points for those sheriffs who are experiencing overcrowding issues," said Stephen Luce, executive director of the Indiana Sheriffs' Association.
The association is hoping to have data ready within 45 days to present to a General Assembly interim study committee looking into corrections and criminal code.
"We want to be able to find those trends contributing to this to make sure we get the right solutions," Luce said.
All sheriffs will be asked to survey their jails.
"We do want to have participation from at least a majority of the sheriffs," said Hamilton County Sheriff Mark Bowen, president of the association.
"Some are not affected, some have newer jails and plenty of room already, so we're trying to look and see as an aggregate where we stand with what's happening with inmate populations in Indiana," he said.
Earlier this week, the Hamilton County Jail was housing 354 inmates. It has a 296-bed capacity, Bowen said. A 120-bed addition is being planned for the facility in Noblesville.
Generally, overcrowding is determined by the physical limits of a jail building compared with the ratio of officers to inmates. State jail inspectors often cite jail overcrowding as the number one problem in jail reports.
In the last year, there have been at least four federal lawsuits filed by inmates complaining of crowded conditions in Indiana jails.
The lawsuits include one by five inmates over Henry County Jail conditions.
In the November 2016 lawsuit, a female inmate claims she shared a three-person cell with five other inmates, forcing her to sleep on a plastic mat on the floor. She also claimed that mold was growing on the floor and ceiling.