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Allen County Sheriff clarifies strategies for bringing down jail population

After the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Indiana filed a motion in federal court for a three-judge panel to set population levels at the Allen County Jail, Sheriff Troy Hershberger emphasized at at Wednesday press conference that a prisoner release would include transfers to other facilities or into alternative programs like probation or house arrest.

He said it would not include the free release of violent offenders into the community.

“If some of the other jails are willing to take them then I’ll send them, but it will come with a price,” Hershberger said. He told reporters Wednesday he’d sent letters to other community correctional facilities in Northeast Indiana, specifically those in counties that border Allen County.

Hershberger said the possible price for sending prisoners to another facility would be losing the best-behaved prisoners and leaving the jail with the most troublesome and dangerous offenders. Those well-behaved prisoners that would likely be transferred also do chores around the jail.

Hershberger said that possible transfer of prisoners would also serve as the contingency for a spike in crime that often comes when the weather turns warmer.

This all comes as the county works to abide by a federal court order that deemed conditions at the current Allen County Jail unconstitutional, specifically due to things like overcrowding. Allen County officials decided building a new $300 million jail would solve the overcrowding issue. A lawsuit attacking the plan to fund that new jail has stalled construction.

Documents filed in federal court Wednesday said the jail population was steadily increasing. Hershberger said prisoner release would be one of multiple ways of getting the population back down to the range that federal court order demands.

He also said sending prisoners to the Indiana Department of Corrections (IDOC) would help. There are more than 50 prisoners ready for transfer to the IDOC, according to Hershberger, but the IDOC can only transfer 14 prisoners a week.

Prisoner release to other county correctional facilities would not eliminate the need for a new jail because the other county facilities would only accept low-level offenders, which make up a small portion of the current Allen County Jail population, according to Hershberger.

The lawsuit attacking the funding plan in place for the new jail continues to hold up construction of the new facility. The federal judge overseeing the case, US District Court Judge Damon R. Leichty, has not yet commented on the hold up.

Tony Sandleben joined the WBOI News team in September of 2022.