No progress has been made with the LaPorte County Jail funding issue.
A wing was closed last week in the LaPorte County Jail after the LaPorte County Council did not approve a request for an additional appropriation of $70,000 to fund the jail overtime budget for the rest of the year. That money was to be used to properly staff jailers and nurses. As a result, three part-time employees were laid off whose wages are funded from the overtime budget.
Sheriff Michael Mollenhauer told WKVI yesterday that the fifth floor of the jail was closed down which housed 70 prisoners. Those prisoners were then placed in other cells within the jail which caused an overcrowding situation. That overcrowding situation caused a mini-riot Friday night. Luckily, Mollenhauer said, no one was injured, but he is worried that if it happens again, lawsuits could be filed.
The Council has informed the Sheriff that he needs to pay the overtime out of the Commissary fund, which currently has a balance of less than $30,000. Mollenhauer told the Council that the State Board of Accounts will not allow that to happen. The Merit Board Attorney will also not allow that money to be used for overtime.
Mollenhauer is asking that the $70,000 needed to employ people to keep the jail properly staffed come out of the $190,000 that was generated from the jail and put into the General Fund over the past eight months. The jail was able to generate that amount of money by receiving funds for holding Department of Corrections inmates (that amounts to $35 a day), parole violation fees, co-pays for medications, and restitution paid from damage done to equipment in the jail. The County Council denied that request.
In the meantime, if a jail staff member calls off sick or takes a day off, a road officer has to be called to fill in for that staff member which reduces the number of patrolman on county roads for that particular shift.
The County Council will revisit this issue during its next regular meeting on October 22.