Indiana county jails overflowing with inmates, Franklin County sheriff says

Posted at 9:58 PM, Mar 24, 2017

BROOKVILLE, Ind. -- An Indiana law meant to reduce crowding in state prisons has instead passed the overflow to county jails, according to Franklin County Sheriff Ken Murphy, and it's straining his department's resources.

"This is the only business I've ever been involved in where the harder you work, the more it costs you," he said.

Indiana House Bill 1010 allows low-level felons, including those convicted of crimes such as drug possession and theft, to serve a year of their sentence in a county jail instead of a state prison. Since the bill's passage, Murphy said, his 75-capacity jail has been forced to house as many as 85 inmates at one time. 

Overcrowding creates a hostile environment for both inmates and staff, according to an article published by Portland State University. Living in too-close proximity with other inmates can lead to increased levels of anxiety and violence in the general population and creating an increasingly stressful situation for everyone involved.

"What we would have done in previous years is pass some of those inmates to another jail until our population got down to where we could handle it," Murphy said. "The problem is, everybody around is overcrowded, too.

"No jail in the state of Indiana was built to be a hospital, a detox center, an insane asylum and a prison, and by virtue of the changes in the law, we've become all four."

The Sheriff's Department and Franklin County Commissioners agreed that it would be too costly to build a new, higher capacity jail. For now, Murphy and his staff will be forced to make due, attempting to meet the needs of their population and hoping for a solution.