FORT WAYNE, Ind (WFFT)- From the outside, the Allen County Jail may look big, but it's actually running out of room to house inmates.
"We're sitting today at 807 inmates in a 741 bed jail, so quite a bit overcrowded," said Allen County Sheriff David Gladieux.
And the number is on the rise.
"The last two weeks I was right at 100 over," said Gladieux.
Gladieux says an uptick in crimes like thefts, burglaries, armed robberies and homicides contribute to the problem, but his biggest issue is when people violate their probation.
"A lot of times it's an automatic go to jail until the court is ready to hear from you and it takes a couple of weeks, sometimes longer for the courts to find out what's going to happen in the long term."
To help curb the problem, Gladeiux talks with judges to encourage them to shorten sentences or let people out on probation.
"I'm not opposed to them being locked up, but when we're overcrowded like this it puts us in a bad spot."
A new program called the 'Inmate Work Crew' keeps low-risk offenders outside cleaning up trash during the day. The sheriff says he's working on finding ways to keep it less crowded inside.
"We're just going to make as many inmates as we can trust and get them to work, and get them out on the streets to clean up roads or get them working in the kitchen."
But that only makes more room in the jail during the day, but what about at night?
"Unfortunately we have to put them on what we call boats. They're plastic- like a plastic bunk that sits right on the floor but its about 8 inches off the floor."
Most of the cells are two bed cells, but with the boats there are now three people to a cell.
Now that it's warming up outside, the sheriff is concerned about the increase in crime, which he fears will make the overcrowding here at the jail worse.
"When the place gets crowded, it gets hot and tempers start to flair and it gets rather uncomfortable," said Gladieux.
With an increase in people behind bars, staff and inmate safety issues arise.
"We've had a lot of fights here in the recent weeks and months. I've had confinement officers hurt."
Overcrowding is also increasing the workload of jail employees.
"It may make the day a little bit busier as far as getting inmates down for court, higher numbers for court or higher numbers for medical appointments or anything like that," said Sgt. Thomas Derose.
Although the population size has increased, Derose said the overall environment hasn't changed much.
"I've been walking through the jail for years and like right now, it's not different from what it was years ago," said Derose.
Gladieux says by the end of the year, he thinks he'll be over budget. The State gives Allen County $35 a day per inmate.
"It's about $50 dollars a day per inmate, so it gets expensive and it gets expensive quick. The citizens of Allen County are picking up that bill and I don't think that's fair."
Overcrowding isn't just in Allen County, it's all over the state too, so transporting inmates to other jails isn't the best option. However, there is a work release center that's getting upgrades, so once that's finished, there will be space to house a few inmates.
If you do see inmates on the side of the road, do not be alarmed, they are closely monitored and outside for the inmate work crew program. The sheriff asks drivers to slow down for everyone's safety while driving past.
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