Starke County Commissioner Kathy Norem described the jail tour made by the Commissioners last week as worthwhile. The Commissioners and Sheriff Oscar Cowen toured the Marshall and Miami County jails and although both used the same “footprint”, Marshall County rolled more equipment into their bond issue.
Norem wanted it known that the trip was not made because of the Jack Haut class action suit against the County, claiming deplorable conditions in the Starke County Jail.
“Basically, the lawsuit is alleging that his constitutional rights are being violated and we deny that,” said Commissioner Norem. “We do not believe that to be true and we intend to vigorously defend that. However, that does alleviate us from addressing ongoing issues within that jail.”
Norem was asked why the tour was made now.
“One thing that we needed to do is take a look at how other people are doing their facilities and what some of their policies and practices are and try to adopt some of those things here.”
Norem was asked if she could foresee a decision made to build a jail this year.
“I think a lot of that will be dictated by the lawsuit,” she replied. “I think that it would be premature for me to say that in 2011, that might be something that we would address. Despite the fact that we don’t believe those allegations to be true, and that we do intend to defend it, we’ll be obligated to follow some of the requirements that the Judge ultimately sets forward. It’s best for us to be knowledgeable about what our options might be as we go down the road with this.”
Starke County’s Jail is approved for 62 prisoners. Norem talks about the size of the two jails toured.
“I believe Marshall County is about 230 if I’m not mistaken. The one at Miami County was less than that. I don’t remember the exact number that they told us. They’re both holding roughly 100 prisoners or so a day which is more than us. They’ve got capacity there that they can do that.”
Kathy Norem said they have one more planned trip to the Jasper County Jail in Rensselaer.