Jail addition rendering

This digital rendering shows a wide view of what the newly expanded Cass County Jail would look like.

The Cass County Jail continues to be near capacity, and COVID-19 and the slow construction of the jail addition are part of the problem.

Indiana Department of Correction guidelines state that having more than 80% capacity is overcrowding, and in the last few years, only this summer has Cass County Jail not been overcrowded, said Cass County Sheriff Ed Schroder.

On Friday, Schroder asked the County Council for additional money and received about $85,000 to keep some of the inmates in White and Miami counties’ jails for the rest of the year.

“It’s not a line item in my budget to house inmates outside,” Schroder said.

Cass now houses 21 inmates in the other jails, and Miami charges $40 a day per prisoner, while White charges $37.50 per day, he said.

Normally, the existing Cass County Jail has 220 beds, and as of Friday morning, it had 212 inmates.

Given COVID-19 requirements to have separate quarantine areas, the jail now has 196 beds available for the general population, Schroder said.

Inmates are tested when they come into the jail and are kept in holding cells until results come in.

Those who test positive are kept in an environmentally contained place at the nurses’ area.

So far, the jail’s just had seven positive cases, the sheriff said.

The jail is also set to lose more cells and beds during construction, when A Block is shut down.

A Block will be the connector to the new jail addition, but Schroder doesn’t know when or how long that shutdown will be.

It doesn’t help that the jail construction project is behind due to the coronavirus.

In a construction meeting scheduled for next week, Schroder plans to ask that construction tasks be done simultaneously instead of consecutively.

“I want to try and shorten the construction process,” he said.

It’s costing Cass County money every day, he said

Schroder has also asked the state about the possibility of using the empty juvenile detention facility, near the jail downtown, to house jail inmates.

The county’s juvenile system has consolidated operations in another place.

So far, having inmates stay at other jails helps alleviate the crowding.

Cass doesn’t send prisoners with medical problems or behavior problems to the other jails, either.

It’s a courtesy, and Cass wouldn’t want another county’s problems if it was helping house inmates, Schroder said.

The ones that go are those serving time for a minor offense, measured in months and not requiring them to go to a prison, or ones with court cases far off.

That saves on transportation costs, he said.

Schroder described the moving of inmates around because of space as “trying to play the chess game.”

Reach James D. Wolf Jr. at james.wolf@pharostribune.com or 574-732-5117

Twitter @JamesDWolfJr

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