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10/24/2018 9:19:00 AM
Huntington County Jail expands to better serve inmates, sheriff says

Heather Cox, Herald-Press

When the state of Indiana still dealt with Level-6 offenders, Sheriff Terry Stoffel said they would be sent to the Indiana Department of Correction (DOC) where they would receive some type of mental health aid and help with rehabilitation and addiction.

Since Indiana is requiring that county jails house Level-6 felons in jails across the state, Stoffel said they wanted to be able to provide those helpful services to inmates locally, including working with the Bowen Center and Community Corrections to provide different needed services and church on Sundays.

Since the recreational area was the only dead space the jail had to work with, they have been working to make it into a roofed-in area that can be used – rain or shine – to ultimately help with the betterment of inmates.

Once he had the idea, Stoffel said he brought it to the Huntington County Council and the board members were on gave approval for moving forward.

“They know that the state of Indiana has not been helping us out by putting Level 6 (felons) here and also that they’ve kind of cut their services on the mental health piece of it... a lot of our inmates in the jail have some sort of mental health problem. And number one: they haven’t financially been able to deal with it. Or number two: they’ve never been diagnosed. Or even number three: they know and they just don’t want to do anything about it,” he explained. “... It gives them something to do, it makes their day go faster and we’re anticipating it to be a well-visited mechanism within our organization,” Stoffel said.

As for services from the Bowen Center, rehabilitation efforts and even possibilities of a GED program, Stoffel said nothing is off the table right now. He added that he does want to take baby steps when introducing new programs to the facility though to ensure success on established programs before adding new ones.

He said not only does the space allow them to use it regardless of weather, but inmates will be able to use the area to face their addictions or any feelings of being lost or alone through provided services.

“They’re not here to be punished: they’re here for punishment. It’s not our job to punish them, but while they are here because that’s their punishment – being here – we’re going to try to do the best we can do to make them the best version of themselves,” he said.

As of now Stoffel said the hope is to have the facility completed in the next week and a half to two weeks. Originally, however, it was supposed to have been done at the beginning of October. Stoffel explained that they have had communication issues among other things with the contractor, Hamilton Hunters Builders Inc, which has caused a lot of delays and frustration.

He added that the council and commissioners are aware of the issues, and the County Attorney, Bob Garrett, is on top of things to ensure that everything gets completed the way that it should. He said if they don’t get it done soon, they will hire someone else to finish the job.

“They have not been on schedule, and I’ve just not been very happy with what we’ve got,” he said. “When life gives you lemons, we’re going to make lemonade out of it, and we’re gonna move on. I’m not gonna sit and dwell and fight with them. I’ll get it finished one way or another.”

Stoffel said the cost of the project lands around $380,000 which includes installing heating and air conditioning, redoing the walls, pouring a new concrete floor, putting a new roof on top of it, new doors and installing retractable windows that can be controlled in a control room to let in fresh air from outside.

Though Stoffel said they had a few hiccups when it came to staying on budget with the project – for example, the heating and air conditioning ended up costing more than expected – they have the money in place and it will be worth it when they are able to use the facility year-round.

As far as staffing goes, Stoffel said they will be able to utilize the staff they already have and the area will have cameras which are monitored in the control room around the clock. He added that they now have enough jailers on staff to transport people back and forth within the secured hallways as well.

Related Stories:
• Huntington County Council passes 0.2 percent jail tax

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