Marion County Jail could surge to capacity this summer

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Lots of talk and little action Monday afternoon as the Marion County Jail is in crisis mode at 95% capacity, heading into the spring and summer months.

The Criminal Justice Planning Council met Monday to come up with an emergency fix for a jail system seemingly bursting at the seams but walked away with no real emergency plan in place.

Sheriff’s deputies and IMPD have been making more warrant arrests since the beginning of the year, but the problem is they are running out of places to house those people. Many of them are awaiting trial and too dangerous, authorities said, to be out in public.

For now the solution for Sheriff John Layton and jail officials is to send Marion County inmates to other counties and possibly open up Liberty Hall for a potential overflow.

But it all comes at a cost to taxpayers.

The Marion County Jail, Jail Two, and Arrestee Processing Center can hold nearly 2,500 inmates and through the spring the population’s reached close to that, sparking the call of crisis.

Monday, Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry asked the Criminal Justice Planning Council if they would consider an emergency release proposal, but the council did not move forward with it.

Some suggested community corrections could be in charge of supervising a heavier load.

“We would have to sit down and plan for it, determining what the county is wanting us to take on. Then we’d make a proposal for what the request would be,” said John Deiter, Director of Marion County Community Corrections.

For their part, community corrections is already near maximum levels, supervising offenders ranging from mentally ill to violent who are awaiting trial or serving their sentence. They’d need more staff to supervise more people being released, who officials say are more dangerous than in years past.

“We have more serious offenders that are in the jail now, so the question would be, who of those individuals do we release, and that’s a more difficult question,” said Marion Superior Court Judge John Chavis.

As for neighborhoods, some like Butler-Tarkington are on edge about the whole dilemma, fresh off the heels of their own crime wave and arrests of a gang that police said targeted the neighborhood.

“It’s a tough message to hear. You weather a public safety crisis, violent crime spike at the end of last year, and you have some recent success with arrests, but then a few weeks later, we’re hearing that there’s overcrowding in the jails,” said Ted Feeney, Past-President of the Butler Tarkington Neighborhood Association.

Officials Monday said they expect the jail numbers to spike in the summer months.

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