News 10 special report: Jail Bailout part 2

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) – There are hundreds of inmates locked in at the Vigo County jail. But, a decision on the future of the jail they are housed in is very much in the air.

Rondrell Moore told you about the problems facing the Vigo County Jail in part one of his special report.

They regularly exceed their maximum capacity of nearly 300 Inmates.

The Sheriff wants to start from scratch and build a new place. But, unlocking the funds to do so, may be a bigger task than what’s possible.

If this is a game, then Sheriff Greg Ewing is definitely playing offense. He’s doing whatever is possible to get his word out.

The county needs a new jail.

“Vigo County taxpayers pay for the structure and the operation to keep the criminals in jail,” Ewing explained.

But like most games there are a few other players.

“The ACLU is very clear. We have to do something.”

Judy Anderson, one of Vigo County’s long standing Commissioners, was there when the jail got a face lift in the early 2000’s.

She knows the condition of the jail. She’s seen these old and faulty pipes, up close. The toilets that are broken could be made into dangerous weapons.

Anderson knows the constitution says the county has to maintain the facility – but her position is a unique one.

“I totally understand the people that work in the jail. I mean a new jail would be the perfect solution. We understand that,” stated Anderson. “We also need to understand that we have look after the taxpayers.”

Another player in this game is Kathy Chalos, the president of the Vigo County Council.

She says her role in all of this is defense is defending tax payer money.

“I don’t want it to be something that we rush into at all. There are still payments that need to be made on the current jail bond and I think that would be wise to pay them off,” Chalos said.

She’s aware of the issues but doesn’t feel building a better jail is necessarily the solution.

Others on the council agree.

Councilman Mark Bird, in fact, has gone on record saying, “Why do inmates awaiting trial need a Taj Mahal”.

The cold hard number to start a jail from scratch would be no less than $22 million.

“I would give $10 to help a juvenile, rather than give a dollar to build a jail,” Anderson stated.

That’s why Chalos and Anderson agree the focus needs to stay on what happens before inmates get to the jail, rather than when they’re inside.

“Maybe a potential liaison between the jail and the courts, and maybe process those inmates through the system more frequently,” Chalos suggested.

There may be several players involved, but the fact of the matter is this issue is nothing at all similar to a game.

There are lives, safety and millions at stake.

And starting July 1, a law moves Class D felons to local jails like this one. Ewing reported their population problem will grow unless something’s done.

That’s why county officials are all working to find a solution.

The city council will discuss whether or not to research looking into building a new jail at this month’s council meeting.

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