TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) - Tuesday night, Vigo County Sheriff Ewing made the temporary transfer of 45 Vigo County inmates to the Knox County Jail in attempts to reduce the jail population.
This after the ACLU of Indiana filed a complaint in regards to the overcrowding of the county jail.
“This will buy us some immediate time while we work with the Judges, Prosecutor and Community Corrections,” Ewing said.
The Terre Haute Federal Prison assisted by providing a bus and driver for a smooth transition of the inmates.
“We are investigating some options with community corrections but those programs require the offender to pay their own way and that is where some of the problems lie… They just don’t have the money,” Ewing stated.
We have the first public comments made by Vigo County officials concerning a federal lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU represents some current jail inmates who claim it's overcrowded and has filthy conditions.
We can tell you a lot has happened to address the overcrowding issue. When it comes to the issue of cleanliness, the county attorney takes exception to the ACLU's claims.
At 8:30 Tuesday night, Sheriff Greg Ewing ordered 45 Vigo County jail inmates be moved to the Knox County Jail. Ewing, who learned about the ACLU lawsuit from News 10, did not comment on camera to us on Wednesday, but he did issue a news release. An excerpt from that refers to the popular "Andy Griffith Show.”
"It is very frustrating that we had to make this emergency move but I cannot help it. Our facility is full and we don't have inmates like Otis the town drunk."
Also on Wednesday Sheriff Ewing personally transported 11 inmates to a state prison. The sheriff says this will help buy him some time... for now. As of 4:30 Wednesday afternoon, the jail count was at 236 inmates.
"We wanted to take a step to try and alleviate the problem in anticipation of what we anticipate being a very busy weekend for law enforcement,” said county attorney Michael Wright.
The Scheid Diesel Extravaganza returns to Terre Haute this weekend, and if history repeats itself this year, the jail will see an influx of new inmates. In light of the lawsuit, Wright and Ewing both want to keep this weekend's inmate cap as close to 268 inmates as possible.
In regards to cleanliness, that's where Wright takes some exception to the ACLU's claims. Wright, who visits the jail on a regular basis, had this to say when asked about claims of uncleanliness, bugs, and black mold.
"The people Greg has working for him in the jail, I’ve met the biggest majority of them and I can tell you almost without exception that they do their jobs very well,” said Wright.
Wright says he and ACLU attorney Ken Falk have worked together in the past and he anticipates this matter will get resolved. You may recall the ACLU's 2002 lawsuit brought about the jail's current inmate cap of 268 inmates. Whether this current lawsuit brings about changes at the jail in the future, Wright said he can't comment.
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