Moving forward: Council, taxpayers express need for independent study regarding jail plans

The decision on how to fund a new jail may be put on hold, but the conversation is far from over.

Posted: Oct 12, 2017 7:13 AM

VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) - The decision on how to fund a new jail may be put on hold, but the conversation is far from over.

"No matter what we see as the needs are, it's going to cost money," said Milli Hoffman-Patrick, Vigo County resident.

Tuesday morning, county commissioners announced they were bringing in the National Institute of Corrections to conduct a jail study.

We asked the county council about the news after their own meeting Tuesday night. 

"I'm hearing the same rumors," said Council President Bill Thomas, "I have nothing officially."

When we asked taxpayers about the NIC study, some say it's not enough. 

"It's not the assessment we need," Hoffman-Patrick said, "We need a comprehensive assessment to evaluate our entire Vigo County criminal justice system, not just a jail assessment."

Hoffman-Patrick's concerns were similar to the ones heard at Tuesday night's meeting. Taxpayers addressed the county council in asking for an outside expert to conduct an independent study. 

Judge Michael Rader also addressed the council to propose plans of his court conducting their own study on the county's criminal justice system. 

Rader said the study would include bringing in a recognized expert for an assessment, taking a look at the mental health, and other areas, in relation to and consistent with problems of the court.

He estimated the cost to not exceed more than $150,000, taking about 90-120 days to complete. 

Thomas agreed to assign it to budget adjustments for a further look and dialogue into Rader's proposal. 

In their first regular council meeting since tabling the vote of a local income tax increase that would help fund a new jail, Thomas says the council is continuing to work in the best interest of the community.

"We have heard the community and we want to do this right," he said, "Something has to be done, just not quite sure what it's going to be, so another assessment will help us when it's time to make that decision."

Thomas says the council has expressed their need for an independent study and needs assessment regarding the jail project as well. 

"We were just wanting to study the judicial system, the stays there, why it's so bottled up if you will," he said, "We need to address mental health issues and those type of things."

The council already has the ball rolling on it by requesting the study to commissioners. However, Thomas says they have not received a response from them yet.

"Hopefully we're going to be working forward, or moving forward, as a team and moving forward with an independent needs study and assessment," he said, "So that's kind of what we're waiting on is a response from the commissioners."

It's the same optimism that Hoffman-Patrick is holding on to also.

"I have hope that Vigo County is going to move in the right direction," she said, "and I think that's in response to the people of the county who have pushed to have this done."

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