PRINCETON — Directed by the county's fiscal body to look to neighboring counties for jail bunk space as one possible way to alleviate overcrowding in Gibson County, Sheriff Tim Bottoms and County Attorney Jim McDonald reported Tuesday there are a few beds available, but none for women.

The scramble to find a way to ease overcrowding comes after a class action lawsuit was filed earlier this year against the county, following two years of Indiana Department of Correction inspections that cited the county for understaffing and overcrowding.

Tuesday, Bottoms said he contacted sheriffs in Knox, Perry, Pike, Warrick and Posey counties to inquire about costs associated with housing Gibson County inmates. Bottoms said Knox and Perry County jails are also overcrowded and can't accept any inmates from other counties. He said he was told two weeks ago that Pike County could accept five or fewer inmates, Warrick County could accept five inmates and Posey County could accept fewer than 10 inmates.

McDonald said none of the jails will accept female inmates from Gibson County.

All of the jails would charge Gibson County $35 per inmate per day plus medical expenses. McDonald said there would also be additional staffing and travel costs associated with transport of inmates to court hearings, in addition to requirements of court orders in advance of each transport.

McDonald said an interlocal government agreement would be required between Gibson County and each county where inmates are housed.

Farming out inmates to other county jails to reduce overcrowding in Gibson County is one temporary solution county council members told the sheriff to pursue when he asked them last month to hire six more jailers to meet DOC inspection staffing recommendations.

Meanwhile, input from a panel of local judges, the prosecutor's office, commissioners, council members and the public is being added to a commissioned long-range plan for the local facility. Commissioners hope to have the results of the long-range study some time late this spring.

The sheriff also asked the council to advertise a $15,000 additional appropriation of the level 6 felony inmate keep money received from the DOC which is deposited to the county's general fund, for purchase of jail supplies including inmate clothing, paint for ells and a needle sharps shredder. Bottoms said the actual cost of the items is about $8,430 but the higher appropriation would help when more jail items are needed.

The request triggered a discussion of whether the DOC reimbursement to the general fund has to be appropriated only for jail expenses, or whether it's considered reimbursement for funds already appropriated for inmate keep at budget time each year.

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