Miami County weighs housing options for female inmates

Tight finances anticipated this year are among factors the commissioners said would keep them from pursuing another option of opening 60 beds for females at the county Incarceration Facility north of Troy.

The facility has 240 beds total, but was closed for three years before one 60-inmate pod for males was reopened last summer. A second pod, also for males, opened in January.

Sheriff Charles Cox, Chief Deputy Dave Duchak and Municipal Court Judge Gary Nasal told commissioners this month the growing number of females jailed is due primarily to use of heroin and recurring stealing to support drug use.

“It is mainly the narcotics,” Cox said.

Nasal agreed.

“The vast majority have probation violations,” he said. “That means these people have been tried on all the services that we have available to us before they were incarcerated. They failed at those attempts at rehabilitation. Consequently, the last resort is incarceration.”

Commissioners said they would check with Shelby County on a possible female housing contract. Jail officials said they would look into any interest by other counties in renting beds in Miami County inmates.

Males could be housed in space available in the two 60-male pods at the Incarceration Facility, which is a minimum security jail. Female beds could be made available if the county opened a third pod devoted to women.

Miami County also has a downtown jail in Troy for maximum security male and female inmates. As of Feb. 27, there were 26 females housed at the downtown jail, eight of them maximum-security prisoners, Duchak said in a jail update meeting with commissioners.

Commissioner Richard Cultice said Shelby County officials said they could offer up to 25 beds for female prisoners at a suggested cost of $55 per day per inmate. Commissioners said they’d try to negotiate a better price.

Duchak said jail administrators checked with area counties about their interest in renting beds in Miami County to help offset the local costs. “The word is out, but no takers,” he said.

The U.S. Marshals Service showed interest but said it has another contract for inmate housing and would need to have a federal jail inspector review Miami County’s available space.

The marshals also are looking for female beds, Duchak said.

To house females at the Incarceration Facility, a few physical changes would be needed to ensure the female and male prisoners are always separated.

The bigger issue, though, is hiring and training eight additional correction officers to staff another pod along with three correction officers needed to fill recent vacancies.

That process, Duchak said, could take at least six months, probably longer, and add more than $420,000 in payroll.

Commissioner John “Bud” O’Brien said he was apprehensive about opening a third pod. “It doesn’t sound like we have bed guarantees unless something changes quickly,” he said.

Duchak agreed, adding he could not guarantee beds the county would have to offer would be rented anytime soon. “I think as a stopgap, overflow to Shelby (County) would be best,” he said.

Contact this reporter at nancykburr@aol.com

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