Sheriff: Inspection didn't identify real jail issues

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State official says violations remained after two visits

By Kevin Koelling, Managing Editor

PERRY COUNTY - County Sheriff Bob Glenn knows more problems exist at the county jail than were identified in a recent inspection report, and said Wednesday a committee is being formed to look at all of them.

"They didn't even look at the issues that are issues," he said.

Dated March 30, the report notes that three inspections had been conducted in the preceding 10 months. Robert Allen, director of the Indiana Department of Correction Program Review-Audit Division, wrote that after a June 2008 inspection, an inmate's relative filed a complaint about unsanitary conditions in the facility. Some improvements were noted in an October follow-up visit, he reported, but "most of the concerns and violations noted in the June 30, 2008 inspection remain unresolved."

The report followed an unannounced inspection March 3, during which "photographs and notes were taken of the facilities which identify concerns and violations found during all three ... inspections."

Forty-five findings were listed, many of them repeated, under the headings, "sanitation, safety, security, health, physical plant and organization." Among them were lack of cleanliness in several areas, hazardous storage practices, fire extinguishers improperly maintained, lighting and electrical problems and views into cells blocked by blankets and other objects. Fifty-seven photographs are included to illustrate the findings.   

Among significant problems not noted in the report are "walls pulling apart and water coming in," Glenn said. Handicapped prisoners have to be taken to other facilities because regulations didn't exist when the jail was built in 1965 that considered them, he added. Laws enacted since then specify, for example, that door widths should allow wheelchairs to pass through.

The existing building is "landlocked," between other buildings, the sheriff noted, so any expansion would have come via the addition of new levels. A committee is being formed to look at the different options available to the county, and a firm may need to be hired to examine whether renovation or new construction is advisable.

In the meantime, "the expense is just terrible" to maintain the current jail, Glenn said. New stainless-steel commodes were installed in the male-inmates side at a cost of $33,000 to replace ceramic fixtures they kept damaging. More were added in the female side, as were new plumbing, a boiler and a water softener Glenn said was needed to combat mineral deposits "that just eat everything up."

"All kinds of structural stuff needs to be done," he said, and "storage is an issue; we have no place to put the stuff we have."

"Everything is old," and while there are things he and his jail staff can do to bring the facility up to standards, the sheriff noted that they are law-enforcement and jail officers, not maintenance or construction workers.