The Starke County Commissioners toured another jail this week. They had recently visited the Marshall and Miami County jails. On Monday, they went to Rensselaer to tour the Jasper County Jail.
The tour of the 128 bed facility was conducted by Sheriff Terry Risner. The Jasper County jail is two years old and was moved from its former downtown Rensselaer location to property north of the city on State Road 231.
No time line has been given by the Commissioners on building a new jail or possible locations. The Starke County Jail has been beset by numerous problems over the past two years, the most significant being overcrowding. All three jails visited by the Commissioners have had larger capacities, but the counties are larger too. In the most recent census, Starke County was listed as having a population just over 23,000. Jasper County was at 33,000, Miami 36,000 and Marshall 47,000.
The Commissioners are grappling with how large to build a new jail, and how much to spend on a facility. The current approved bed space is 62, but has many times gone over that number. That has prompted a Class Action lawsuit by Jack Haut, who has been a prisoner in the jail over 300 days.
A decision on whether to build a new jail may be impacted by the outcome to that suit. Commissioner Kathy Norem, who is the contact person for the jail on the Commission, said visiting the jails was not in response to the suit which the County is vigorously defending.
Sheriff Oscar Cowen, who accompanied the Commissioners to Rensselaer, said he was impressed with the new Jasper County facility.