Inmates at the Floyd County Jail have had to watch their step lately. If not, they’re likely to step on another inmate.

The jail’s capacity was far over capacity Wednesday. That was apparent as some inmates camped out on bunks, some stood and watched television and others laid on thin cushion-like mattresses on the floor.

According to Floyd County Police Chief Frank Loop, the jail’s capacity is 234. Wednesday’s inmate population hit 290. Part of that increase came from 31 arrests Tuesday morning in a drug raid led by the Indiana State Police.

“We’re obviously in violation of what our capacity is,” Loop said. “That increases our liability if something happens.”

Jail overcrowding is not uncommon, according to Loop. He said the increased number of bodies in the jail is taxing to the inmates.

“For the inmates, it’s more crowded,” Loop said. “The tensions are there, but it’s not to the point of fights breaking out.”

More inmates also mean more work for the corrections staff. The jail currently employs 43 corrections officers, the same number that was allotted with the jail’s capacity was set for 124 inmates.

“Those officers, their day has just become tighter,” Loop said.

With increased inmates means more money spent on feeding inmates, providing medical care, providing clothing and laundry services. The jail is operating with a $1.5 million budget for 2005. Loop said $725,000 of that budget has been spent as of Aug. 31. He is unsure whether more money will be needed before the end of the year.

“We may have to move some things from one category to another to make things work,” Loop said.

Loop thinks the jail’s 2005 budget will be operational, but said the bigger issue is building a new and larger jail facility that will be sufficient now and for the future.

The current facility was built in 1994, cost $14 million and had a capacity to hold 124 inmates. The capacity increased in 1998 to 166 inmates after additional beds were added to the facility. In 2001, the jail capacity was increased to 234 after state law changed in how much square footage was required per inmate.

Loop has discussed the issue of a new jail with members of the Floyd County Council and the Floyd County Board of Commissioners. He thinks a new jail should be built outside the city limits.

“I think it needs to be done in the next five years,” Loop said. “It should go outside the city so it’s not quarantined by square blocks.”

Loop has some ideas about where a new jail should be built, but said the final decision will be made by the County Council and Commissioners. He would like to see a jail with a minimum capacity to hold 500 inmates and room for expansion. He also said the jail should have the capacity to hold inmates from other areas, something he said could bring money in to support the facility. He said a new jail will cost $20 million, money that would likely be paid through a bond.

If a jail is built, Loop thinks the current facility should be used as a juvenile detention center for the regional area. He said the facility could be self-sustaining by selling beds in the facility. Floyd County Councilman Larry McAllister agrees. He also thinks there is a strong need for a new jail. However, McAllister thinks the county’s coffers are tied with two upcoming murder trials.

“The reason everything is slowed down is because of these murder trials,” he said. “I don’t think it’s fair, but that’s what happens. We can’t hardly plan for anything until this is over.”

McAllister said architects are currently working on estimates for a new jail and probation office complex as well was a new youth shelter.

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