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ACLU attorneys representing Allen County Jail inmates may ask for prisoner release if funding fails

The proposed jail, designed by Elevatus Architecture, has yet to receive full funding by the Allen County Council.
Elevatus Architecture
The proposed jail, designed by Elevatus Architecture, has yet to receive full funding by the Allen County Council.

If the Allen County government cannot get on the same page with regards to funding the proposed $300-million new county jail, the ACLU is prepared to ask a federal judge to start releasing inmates.

Attorneys representing the plaintiffs in a federal case challenging conditions at the Allen County Jail say they are “profoundly concerned” by the Allen County Council’s unwillingness to give the Allen County Commissioners the money needed to start the jail project.

In March 2022, a federal judge ordered the county to correct overcrowding, understaffing, violence and other issues in response to a 2020 lawsuit filed by an inmate.

In response to that order, Allen County officials elected to build a new jail instead of expanding the existing downtown facility.

Last year, the council narrowly agreed to fund the plan to build a new jail about five miles southeast of downtown Fort Wayne.

But in January, the council refused to fund preliminary work on the project and $5.9 million for the annual construction lease payment to the Building Corporation. County officials also must wait for the project’s bond approval from the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance.

The next federal hearing is Tuesday, and the council might again take up the $5.9 million request on Feb. 14.

Rebecca manages the news at WBOI. She joined the staff in December 2017, and brought with her nearly two decades of experience in print journalism, including 15 years as an award-winning reporter for the Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne.