Lowered sentencing can lead to overcrowded jails - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Lowered sentencing can lead to overcrowded jails

 A change in state laws may lead to overcrowded local jails.  St. Joe County Sheriff Mike Grzegorek is among those worried about that.

Before the State of Indiana redefined the classes of felonies and their penalties, inmates would serve their sentences at any Department of Corrections facility. Now, Class 5, Class 6 felons and below would serve their time in the county jail. This means the 830 beds at the St. Joe County Jail could fill up quickly.

"We don't know how many there's going to be," says Grzegorek. He says the number of inmates that will have to stay at the jail is unpredictable, and when it comes to housing more criminals, Grzegorek asks, "Where's the money coming from to pay for that?"
Grzegorek says the county pays for housing, food, and medical costs for about 600-inmates right now. But if the jail gets more and more inmates, Grzegorek says he doesn't know how much more money the county will have to shell out.... before the state steps in. "That's probably why the state hasn't said what they're going to do at this point because it's really unknown for everyone," he says.

Grzegorek says last year the county spent over 2-million dollars on medical expenses alone for prisoners. But it's not only the cost of housing more inmates. It's a complicated equation the prison will have to deal with on a daily basis. "We have to make sure people with conflicts aren't placed together. We can't have rivaling gang members next to one another. We can't have witnesses in the same trial or co-defendants in the same place," says Police legal advisor Eric Tamashsky. He says they have to balance where inmates can be placed behind prison walls.
He says they also have to keep the levels of felonies separate -- murderers can't be in the same cell as someone who committed check fraud. "It would be impossible to have the storm that would have to arise able to arise to be able to fill every bed and not have the classification conflicts that are so prevalent," says Tamashsky.

Sheriff Grzegorek says he is keeping the St. Joe County commissioners updated on expenses. He says the jail won't see the FULL effects of the redefined felony laws till probably a year from now.

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