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Howard County jail population surges

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KOKOMO, Ind. — The Howard County jail has seen a population increase of nearly 100 more inmates from this time last year, 40 of whom are the result of legislation meant to ease the Indiana Department of Correction’s burden.

With an average of more than 390 inmates in June, the jail reached its highest monthly average since it started recording figures in mid-2007, the Kokomo Tribune (http://bit.ly/29ZagDB) reported.

The legislation approved two years ago shifted low-level and nonviolent offenders to county jails.

Before 2016, the jail only once reached 400 inmates on a daily count. Jail records show that has occurred 10 times in the last two months.

The consequences of such growth include increased operational costs for things like medical treatment and meals as well as expanded responsibilities for corrections officers, who are sometimes individually responsible for overseeing up to 90 people at a time.

Howard County Sheriff Steve Rogers said that the jail isn’t overcrowded, but that the county and jail personnel need to consider alternative ways to deal with inmate populations.

Howard County Commissioner Paul Wyman said that Indiana officials could decide whether to give final approval for $1.1 million in grant money for a work-release program on Aug. 2.

The jail, which is also the largest mental health facility in the county, currently has enough resources and beds for all inmates. But any increase could create a plethora of problems, including potential litigation.

“I’m not screaming that the sky is falling here, it’s just that there is a trend here that we need to be aware of,” Rogers said.