Starke County officials recently had the opportunity to travel to Denver, Colorado to attend a conference for the planning of new institutions. The conference was conducted by the National Institute of Corrections and most expenses were paid for by the Institute. Attending were Commissioner Kathy Norem, Sheriff Oscar Cowen, Chief Deputy Bill Dulin, Councilman Dave Pearman, and Jail Commander Greg Hewitt.
Now back in Starke County, the “team” will report about the conference in detail to the Board of Commissioners and the County Council sometime in September.
Sheriff Oscar Cowen was asked what the next step is.
“We have to decide whether it’s more feasible to actually build a new jail or just put a lot of money in in trying to repair what we have now,” said Sheriff Cowen.
Cowen said the jail that is being used now, which was built in the 1970s, is not equipped to handle the number of prisoners its asked to house.
“When I first started in law enforcement with the Knox City Police Department in 1980, this same facility probably didn’t house 15 to 20 people on a weekly basis. Most, if not all, were male occupants at the time. We may have had a female in either for public intoxication or a DUI for overnight and that was about it.”
And the type of prisoner that is being incarcerated now is much different than the ones jailed in the old days.
“Back in the early ’80s, public intoxication or DUIs are what would bring inmates into our facility and that escalated to drugs in general. Now, most of our inmates are in here for meth charges or for prescription drugs. We average about 70 inmates a day.”