Marion County Sheriff pleads jail overcrowding while mistakes hold inmates

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Marion County Sheriff John Layton’s staff told members of the Criminal Justice Planning Council that at one point Monday the county jail system held 26 more inmates than it had room for.

The jail system, covering three downtown facilities, has bed space for 2,507 offenders.

During a Monday head count, the Marion County sheriff was responsible for the incarceration of 2,683 inmates, however, 150 of them were housed in Clark and Elkhart counties.

Col. Louis Dezelan told the council that while the system was packed with more than two dozen inmates above its capacity, he expected that number to be reduced by lights out through jail transfers or releases, as long as arrest numbers did not increase dramatically after dark.

While Layton has assured city county councilors that his jail staff supervises, “the worst of the worst,” the sheriff also wonders, “Are we locking up people who are dangerous, or people we are mad at?”

Monday, FOX59 found two offenders who would likely fit into that second category inside the overcrowded jail and our efforts were successful in having them released from custody.

Terriann Land is very pregnant, four days past her due date, and she spent her Monday morning outside the Marion County Jail trying to get her boyfriend transferred to another jail so she might bond him out so they could go to the hospital together.

“I’ve been trying to get him out of the jail, well, not out of the jail but transferred to Johnson County for six days now,” Land said, clutching the cell phone she dialed incessantly. “He hasn’t been processed in yet and he’s been in a cell block for five days now.”

Zachary Wright was arrested by IMPD last week for his failure to appear in a Johnson County court on a year old traffic charge.

“I’ve been calling for probably two days after he got put in there because I’ve already heard from him every day they transfer two or three people, they transfer these people, and he’s upset, he’s freaked out,” said Land. “He’s worried that he won’t see the baby being born.”

Wright’s continued incarceration inside the Marion County Jail comes as Sheriff John Layton complains that his facility is dangerously crowded due to an inefficient criminal justice system and more arrests by police and sheriff’s deputies.

A phone call from Fox 59 News to Johnson County Jail authorities put Wright’s transfer in motion so that Land might pay his $500 bond and her baby’s father will join her in the delivery room.

“Oh my goodness thank you sooo much,” Land texted when she learned Marion County deputies would put Wright in a van to be driver to the Johnson County Jail in Franklin by mid-afternoon. “I wish I could express how much this means thanks so much for being the only one to help us out.”

Within three hours of that phone call Wright was bonded out.

Jimmy Whitlock also got to eat home cooking Monday night.

A Marion County judge ordered Whitlock released on his own recognizance August 23, but Hendricks County had a hold on him for an open warrant.

Rebecca Whitlock said if Hendricks County would accept her son, she could post his bond, take him off the jail’s hands and get him the help he needs for his addiction.

“I am understanding from Jimmy now…they’re too full, too,” said Whitlock who complained she can’t get answers from either county jail. “Every time I call (Marion County), one day they lose his paper, the next day they’re looking for him and the next day they’ll say, well, he’s not here, and then in the afternoon I call back and they find him.

By late afternoon, after her story aired, Whitlock said Hendricks County officials called and said her son had been transferred and was ready to be sent home once bond was posted.

“I believe they’re mismanaging it. He’s a bad guy, too, but he’s mismanaged in it,” said Whitlock. “I think its poor management on Marion County’s part.”

Last week, we reported on a woman held for a home detention violation because she was undergoing kidney dialysis treatment when her community corrections case officer checked on her.

We also interviewed the friends of a man who was still held in the jail six days after his bond was posted.

All four of the offenders we’ve profiled have taken up valuable bed space at the crowded Marion County Jail when better inmate management or cooperation with surrounding counties would have opened up slots for other arrestees or defendants.

Layton has said his jail is too crowded due to the influx of state prisoners serving their time at the local level and also due to stepped up enforcement by his deputies and IMPD.

Mayor Joe Hogsett faces a self-imposed December deadline to propose criminal justice system reforms and plans for construction of a new jail and sheriff’s office.