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Potential cost and timelines released from officials in new Vigo County Jail study

The Vigo County Jail's future is still up in the air, but now, county leaders have a tool to help them in the process.

Posted: Jul 24, 2018 4:31 PM
Updated: Jul 24, 2018 11:42 PM

VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) - The Vigo County Jail's future is still up in the air, but now, county leaders have a tool to help them in the process.

For years, the county has been struggling with overcrowding issues and lawsuits from inmates.

On Tuesday, officials released a 96-page feasibility study to the public on the county's website.

County commissioners hired researchers from RJS Services to compile the data for that study.

It details the costs and potential timelines for a new jail...among other things.

To read the study, click here.

In the nearly 100 page document, some say the findings are alarming. With tax dollars on the line, some say this study cashes out to more than what Vigo County can afford.

RJS released its findings as to why nearly 530 beds in a new Vigo County Jail would be necessary for years to come.

RJS focused on six trends the county should be aware of. You can find them on page 64 and beyond in the document.

One of the trends includes an increas in "Children In Need of Supervision", or CHINS. This includes the population of abused, neglected and at-risk youth.

Experts said it's likely some children from the group would enter the system and are involved in adult criminal violence or crimes.

Numbers pointed to a growing number of CHIN cases from 2010 to 2017. The study found cases sharply increased from barely 300 to just a little more than 830. 

Vigo County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) was directly mentioned in the study. It said the group's waiting list of children in need of services continues to grow due to inadequate resources.

Another factor in the study is the upward trend in civil mental health petitions. The petitions are created to seek help for people with mental illnesses who carry real or potential risk of harming themselves or others.

Experts said cases grew from 463 in 2010 to 1220 in 2017.

RJS pointed to national studies where they found the mentally ill were disproportionately represented in jail populations compared to communities. Experts also poined out that it is not unreasonable for the increase in cases to impact jail bed capacity.

They also mentioned that discussions to construct and execute a Diversion Center, as an alternative solution to incarceration, should move toward action planning.

News 10 reached out to a variety of people, such as county leaders, groups and taxpayers, following the study's release on Tuesday. Some said they did not want to comment until they read the study in its entirety.

News 10 spoke with Mike Gordon, a taxpayer and a member of Citizens For Better Government in Vigo County. He said he's not opposed to a new jail.

However, with this new study, he said he hopes leaders will step back and think about just how much the county and its taxpayers can afford. 

"When you go out to buy a new car or a new house, you think about the payments you can make before you go and do it," said Gordon, "Our leaders aren't doing that. They're thinking about everything they want, they're thinking about everything they want to put into it and not reflecting the limitations that our community have."

News 10 also spoke with Pastor Dwayne Malone of Free Will Baptist Church. While he was not available to go on camera, Malone sent over a statement with his thoughts on the study.

"This outcome proves their initiative to build a mega-jail at any cost, without any regards of the needs of our community or alleged offenders," Malone stated, "This is not a good day for the humanity of Terre Haute. When studying the numbers, and for them to make such a decision, it's about greed, continual racial oppression and too many good people staying silent on the issue."

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