The assessment will happen sometime in November or early December.
“They’ll be looking at the entire criminal justice system,” County Commissioner Elmer Brames said. “They’ll give us an assessment of what’s going on and how potential changes could impact what’s going on.”
The assessment will be completed at no cost to the county. The NIC receives federal funding to conduct the assessments for counties that request them.
Commissioners President Chad Blessinger said this is the beginning of the commissioners’ process of determining how to address the security center’s problems.
“These are experts that do this all the time,” he said. “As commissioners we thought, ‘Since there’s no cost to the county and these are experts, why not have this as our first step?’”
Two people with the NIC will visit for three consecutive days for the assessment and their work will start and end with public meetings. “They are strongly encouraging that the public be told and invited to those,” Brames said.
The duo will tour the county’s criminal justice facilities, including the jail and the courthouse. They will also conduct multiple interviews.
“They are going to talk to all the interested and involved people,” Blessinger said. “They want to find out what our needs are, research our history, see what kind of usage we’ve had at the jail, and help us to determine what our true needs are, from the third party perspective.”
Once they are done, a public meeting will be held on the final day, “where they will kind of give their assessment,” Brames said. “So by the time they leave we should have our assessment.”
The commissioners are welcoming the outside-party analysis.
“We take this seriously,” Blessinger said. “We want to make sure the we are treating people who are incarcerated and under our supervision fairly. And we’re taking steps to make sure that happens.”
The commissioners had been looking at space needs for county offices. Their focus shifted to the jail after receiving notice from the Indiana Department of Correction in April mandating that the county address the problems of overcrowding .
“The DOC said to get started on corrective action within the next six months,” Blessinger said. “We got to work on Day 1 — examining our options, talking to architects, talking to contractors, visiting other jails, and looking for the best route to go forward.”
The commissioners heard about the NIC at a conference Brames attended. Sheriff Donny Lampert sent the NIC a letter requesting an assessment in July. The NIC contacted the county last week and informed county officials when representatives could do the assessment.
“Our worry initially was that they would come when they were available,” Blessinger said. “So we were afraid that it would take a long time for them to get here. But they are coming relatively quickly, and we’re happy that it worked out this way.”
Officials with the county’s criminal justice system as well as county council members and the commissioners are looking at their schedules to determine which dates would be best for the NIC representatives to conduct the assessment. Once the dates are set, the county will inform the public of the public meeting dates.