Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

September 6, 2013

Public safety at the forefront

Debbie Blank The Herald-Tribune
The Batesville Herald-Tribune

---- — BROOKVILLE – When Franklin County Council members received input from department heads about the proposed $15.3 million budget for 2014 during the first of two days of hearings Aug. 26, public safety was at the forefront.

“Jail standards adopted in 2013 change the way every jail in the state … operates,” pointed out Sheriff Ken Murphy. In 2013, $751,912 was allotted for the Franklin County Security Center, Brookville. The sheriff suggested more than doubling that to $1.82 million next year because of the new rules.

Murphy said he realizes the proposed jail budget is “enormous.” Of the need to be in compliance with Indiana Department of Corrections guidelines, he observed, “we are not going to cure this … in three budget cycles. I think we need to put a plan together where we work toward that end.”

Kenneth Whipker, IDOC jail inspector, Indianapolis, performed a jail staffing analysis for the county facility. “The standards require sufficient amount of staff for inmates, staff and public safety.” New jail designs call for a modular shape with control points, which is less labor intensive than older ones. He explained the Franklin County jail has a linear design on several floors, which is “very labor intensive. You can’t get from point A to point B very quickly.” The sheriff reported, “I asked for everything that was in the staffing analysis” and that’s why the recommended budget is so much more than in the past.

Whipker cautioned the county could face lawsuits if rules are ignored. He assured members a dangerous situation will happen at the county facility sometime in the future. “One critical incident in your jail will override everything you’ve tried to do … if the jail is understaffed and there is a critical incident” due to lack of staff or medical resources, the court won’t care if there were not enough funds.

“It’s not if something happens, it’s when something happens,” he said.

Member Joe Sizemore, Metamora, was concerned new jail standards will “force the taxpayers to pay more.” Whipker agreed, “It’s an unfunded mandate… it’s a requirement. There’s going to be an expectation that certain things happen ... doing nothing is unacceptable,” he emphasized. The inspector said a percentage of economic development or option income taxes could be set aside to fund jail operations.

The medical services category of the jail budget could double from $66,000 allotted in 2013 to a recommended $125,000 in 2014, including a medical technician who would be paid $34,091. Whipker urged that a nurse evaluate all new inmates on a daily basis. Murphy divulged that now “we have a doctor who comes in once a week.”

One council member asked if a county nurse could check inmates’ health. According to Whipker, “An hour a day ... is better than nothing.” Jail staff shouldn’t assess medical conditions, he noted. “You want that left to professionals.”

Murphy said the two county nurses are supervised by the county health officer, Dr. Michael Fain. The two discussed having one nurse work as needed at the security center, but Fain doesn’t have the right kind of malpractice insurance for that task.

Member Aaron Leffingwell, Brookville, asked if the current jail health provider has a nurse who could check out inmates’ health issues and the answer was yes.

The sheriff’s budget, which includes 11 jailers’ salaries, is projected at $1.135 million, up 66 percent from $681,823. If approved, a chief jailer at $34,091 would be a new position. Whipker said, “I’m a firm believer jail employees must be paid well. The sheriff has a constitutional obligation … to insure the safety and security of people to confined to a jail. You want highly trained, professional people working in the facility.” He advised the council to offer enough pay “so they want to work in the jail, not use it as a stepping-stone.”

The sheriff said, “I did ask for pay raises. I think there needs to be some incentive there for people who want promotions and to take on extra duties” at the jail. “Law enforcement has changed dramatically” due to technology and training. Whipker said jailers must have 40 hours of training the first year and 16 hours annually after that.

Now jailers must recognize suicide signs and be able to classify inmates, Murphy noted. “It’s not something just anybody off the street can come in and do. You deal with feces, urine, blood on your person or thrown on your face.” He estimated half of those incarcerated have communicable diseases. Hepatitis is prevalent at the security center and at least one prisoner has HIV.

Likewise, the sheriff asked for more dollars for two communications center funds, E-911, from $135,380 in 2013 to a requested $160,685 in 2014; and statewide 911, from $434,758 to $483,080. He wants the center to have caller ID capability. “People hang up and we don’t know where they are.”

Reflecting on the jail budget, member Rebecca Oglesby, Brookville, had an idea. “What happens if we just farm out the inmates to another county? Would it be cheaper?” Murphy said, “We’re going to be paying them,” but he didn’t know how much. Now each Indiana county is paid $35 daily to house IDOC inmates waiting to go to state facilities. Whipker did the math. With an average of 60 inmates x $35 x 365 days, the annual total would be at least $766,500 because a county could charge more than the $35. Extra dollars would be needed to transport prisoners back and forth from different jails to Franklin County courtrooms.

Murphy pointed out, “You’re not going to find one jail” that would accept all 60 prisoners, so they could be scattered, some far away. “Nothing’s off the table. We’re discussing every option.”

Debbie Blank can be contacted at debbie.blank@batesvilleheraldtribune.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 113.

 

 

More funding proposals • Commissioner Tom Wilson, Laurel, said he and two counterparts discussed adding one employee who will focus on human resources with a $25,181 salary. • Wilson heard the county will get $480,000 more this year from the state to maintain roads. Commissioner Tom Linkel, Batesville, will do research on how much is spent on county vehicle maintenance by outside firms and whether it would be more cost effective to have the vehicles serviced by county employees. • Commissioners have decided to improve a Duck Creek Road slab next year. "We've been saving for several years. Six years in a row the feds turned it down (for funding) … we've got 20 slabs left in the county" to upgrade. • In the commissioners' budget, $45,000 was proposed for a county attorney to attend meetings and give advice, up from $13,832."There could be a couple lawsuits coming up," which would require more money, Wilson noted. Oglesby said, "It would be wonderful to have a county attorney" to counsel department heads. • Wilson said $101,557 was earmarked for Community Mental Health Center and $5,000 was "penciled in" for Safe Passage. "We don't get a lot of requests anymore" from nonprofits. "We don't have any money to give them anyway." • The county's cemetery commission, established in 2001, has restored 63 cemeteries as of March 2012. Its 2014 request was $26,000, higher than this year's $15,800. The written report stated, "Altogether we have identified 168 cemeteries in the county and located 150" with the oldest stone dating to 1809. "We've got a lot of history in Franklin County," said commission member Ed Baker.