November 23

Elevatus President Cory Miller appeared before the Allen County Board of Commissioners today to give an update on the evaluation and scoring of the properties being considered for the Allen County Justice Center. After a presentation of the top four locations that were evaluated by the architects and engineers assisting in the project, the Board of Commissioners voted to have their attorney negotiate a purchase agreement with the property owner of 2911 Meyer Road for them to review and approve at an upcoming Legislative Session. If an agreement can be reached, the purchase needs approval from Allen County Council and the use of the property needs approval from the Fort Wayne Board of Zoning Appeals.

Elevatus Presentation of Site Options              Detailed Analysis and Scoring of Site Options

 

November 4

Elevatus President Cory Miller appeared before the Allen County Commissioners today to give an update on design work for the Allen County Justice Center. He discussed key components of the jail design, including housing and support areas, and planning for medical, mental health and addiction recovery pods to be located within the facility.

Elevatus Status Update

 

 Tuesday Weekly Jail Updates

Each Tuesday, the Allen County Commissioners' Office will release information related to work being done on the Allen County Jail Project. 

pdf.pngAllen_County_Commisioners_Nov_15_jail_update.pdf

pdf.pngAllen_County_Commisioners_Nov_1_jail_update_Draft.pdf

pdf.pngAllen_County_Commisioners_October_25_jail_update_to_post_002.pdfctober_25_jail_update_to_post.docx

 

 September 23

Cory Miller of Elevatus presented a matrix for evaluations of properties under consideration as sites for the Allen County Jail at today's legislative session. As the Commissioners judiciously evaluate properties, they will have Elevatus score them through this matrix, which may be viewed below, to determine the best location for the new jail.

Site Evaluation Tool

 

July 22

As you are aware, we have determined that our best location for a jail is on property owned by Allen County at Adams Center and Paulding Roads.  Since this was announced, we have received complaints from citizens and from several of the City’s elected officials.

Generally, the comments we have heard can be put into a few categories:

  • Influence/danger to children due to proximity to schools;
  • Other locations were not vetted or proven to not be better alternatives;
  • Aesthetics – concerned about fences and razor wire;
  • Disrespect that neighborhood not consulted in advance;
  • Negative impact on future southeast development.

We freely admit that we did not have advance discussion with citizens in that area regarding locating the jail there.  We apologize for this and can only say that the speed with which we are compelled to act resulted in the need to file a report with the court indicating a location before we had time to meet with neighbors and the community.  We will be meeting with City officials in the coming days to hear concerns and will be meeting with area neighbors in the near future, as well.

We would like to assure people that the structure to be built will not be an eyesore and it is not a prison. We fear that people are imagining barbed wire and watch towers, but this will not be the case.  The current jail sits on its site with no fence, no barbed wire and no offensive prison-like appearance and has not been a problem for the downtown community.

In fact, looking to the current jail, we believe we can allay a lot of the community concerns and fears.  First, as noted, the current jail is not an eyesore. Second, there is not crime in the area of the current jail caused by inmates or people coming and going from the jail.  The current jail is also within 4500 feet of seven schools and/or daycare centers.  To our knowledge, the jail has not caused disruption or harm to the schools or the school children. 

Another concern is that the jail may have a negative impact on development in southeast Fort Wayne.  We’ve reviewed the City’s 2021 Southeast Strategy.  The jail site, however, is not in an identified focus area or corridor designated in the Plan.  The proposed jail site is on the absolute outskirts of Fort Wayne and in, really, a rural area.  Additionally, the future development we are aware of in the area, includes a proposed E-waste smelting facility immediately to the east of the proposed jail site.  City officials have touted this development and this type of development will not be negatively impacted by a jail in the vicinity.

Finally, we have heard that not enough attention was shown to investigation of other properties.  We had been in the process of vetting other sites after the Court’s order declaring our current jail unconstitutionally overcrowded on March 31, but our efforts were cut short when on June 16, the federal Court scolded us for not having a specific plan for correcting the constitutional deficiencies in the building, along with corresponding benchmark dates.  The Court gave us 28 days from June 16 to resubmit a firm plan.  At that point, we carefully vetted all properties owned by Allen County, of which there are precious few, and determined that the proposed location was the most suitable and was one around which we could develop a firm plan required by the Court.

We absolutely did consider the former Irene Byron hospital site, but concluded that it is not suitable because the usable number of acres there is insufficient.  It might be a surprise to many of you, but the Town of Huntertown has well-heads on property owned by it right in the middle of the acreage.  Accordingly, it cannot be used.  Additionally, that site has inadequate land for setbacks and buffering that would be required.

The County owns no other suitable land, and despite our request for sellers to come forward, no one has identified an area for investigation that wouldn’t result in similar community concerns, specifically, Southeast Fort Wayne concerns.

Please understand that we take our obligations to jail inmates and our un-incarcerated citizens seriously.  We don’t mean to disrespect any person, and are attempting to meet our statutory and court-ordered responsibilities as carefully as possible to minimize any negative impact.

 

June 17

Construction

    1. Two scenarios likely (potential resulting in 1100 – 1500 beds)
      1. Build new structure
      2. Maintain newer portions of the current jail and build smaller structure to house certain classifications (severe mental health)

What has been done?

    1. A study and Public hearing per statute (1263) were completed
    2. Agreement with both Noble (20) and Lagrange (50) to house inmates
    3. Discussions with Elkhart County (who had 300 beds but could not hire the personnel to oversee)
    4. Cancelled Federal contract to house inmates
    5. Built out Community Corrections residential services to house more level 6 violators
    6. Now sending some level 6 offenders to the state
    7. Met with mental health care providers to gauge their appetite for running a mental health facility related to the jail
    8. Website to create greater transparency on actions being taken

What is currently being done?

  1. Due diligence on procuring land (70+ acres)
    1. Endeavored to secure land from Airport Authority. After a level of due diligence the Authority rejected the idea
    2. Have done environmental on property already owned on Adams Center and Paulding Road; result was that the property is not well suited for new jail without significant improvements and remediation
  • In the process of having a Phase I performed on Meyer Road property
  1. In the process of discussions with a developer on property out by the old Harvester Industrial Park
  2. Currently seeking bond counsel (have sent out a request for proposals)
  3. Working to develop additional problem-solving courts (One Church/One Offender/One Business) Currently 11,000 people that could be incarcerated in Allen County that are working through alternative measures (sentencing)
  4. In process of selecting an architect (have been in discussion with 3)
  5. Meetings to be scheduled with various focus groups to gain insight into potential alternatives
  6. Working through how to receive Medicaid 1115 waivers and how they may assist those who are incarcerated who are afflicted with a mental health disability
  7. Working with Justice and Rep. Greg Steuerwald, FSSA and others oon the proposed 988 system

 

May 27

We get a lot of questions about, and believe there is confusion surrounding, why The Board of Commissioners is proposing to build a new jail.  Many people appear to believe it is unnecessary and too costly to undertake, especially when there is still “room to grow” in the existing facility.

Here’s what we know:

  • The current jail structure was opened 41 years ago, in 1981. Additions were completed in 1994, 1998, and 2004. The building has had 24/7, non-stop use for 41 years.  This takes a toll on plumbing, electrical, and mechanical systems.  The county Sheriff originally and county maintenance staff currently have diligently maintained the structure, but years of non-stop use have been hard on the structure.
  • The jail has 732 beds, but jail population for the last several years has routinely been in the upper 700s and into the 900’s. There simply are not enough beds to accommodate the numbers sentenced to and being held in the jail. Compounding this is the fact that, due to how inmates need to be classified and housed for their safety, a jail is considered at capacity when it is at 80% of its rated capacity.  For our 732-bed jail, 80% is about 586 beds.  The Allen County jail population is not and is not expected to ever again be that low.  High jail counts exceeding the number of beds leads to congestion and a certain number of inmates being required to sleep on a portable bed unit with a mattress on the floor of cells.  This is certainly not optimal, and we are told that it leads to disagreements and sometimes fights among inmates.
  • The jail design and layout, while cutting edge in 1981, is not conducive to today’s needs. Staffing shortages have always been routine in the confinement setting and today’s post-COVID staffing shortages are much worse. The jail layout demands a higher number of officers and more foot patrolling than current designs.  This in itself is not necessarily a reason to build a new jail, but in conjunction with the other deficiencies, it should be considered.
  • Jail conditions, including the high number of inmates, resulted in the Indiana ACLU filing a class action lawsuit against the Sheriff and “Allen County.”

The Board of Commissioners’ only role with respect to the jail is to “establish and maintain” it.  Clearly the jail exists and is regularly and well maintained, but the Court in the ACLU case determined that conditions within the jail were resulting in Constitutional violations affecting inmates.  Among those conditions, and the only one under the control of the Board, was the capacity of the jail.  The Board of Commissioners has no true role in whether and how crimes are charged, prosecuted and defended, or handled by the judiciary.   It has little role in the transfer of prisoner to other facilities to reduce population and no role in the jail staffing or operations. 

So, at this point, the Board of Commissioners is left with 2 choices – either build a new jail facility of some appropriate size, or do nothing.  Not building a new jail facility will necessitate the jail population getting down to and staying around 586 individuals.  This is highly unlikely, given the statistics, at least without a shift in crime patterns and behaviors and/or the strategies employed by law enforcement, the prosecuting attorney, and the judiciary.    Nevertheless, we have worked and will continue to work to understand the many factors involved in the high county jail population and to work with all parties involved to limit the population as much as is practical both for the benefit of the community and to reduce the cost of building a new jail structure.

In the meantime, though, we are compelled by the Court’s order to investigate and form a general construction plan and to arrive at a size of structure that makes sense.  We’ll continue to update on progress as we move forward.

 

May 20

  • The Allen County Sheriff and Board of Commissioners responded to the Morris Jail Overcrowding federal court case on May 20. We stated that all indications are that a new jail structure needs to be built. We will be meeting with the Judge for further discussion June 15.
  • We are listening to community concerns and understand that addiction and mental health afflictions are a huge problem in our community and among the incarcerated. We would much rather see people get healthy than see them incarcerated and we are actively engaged with our Indiana legislators toward proposing legislation to create and fund programs for treatment and care of individuals affected by addiction and mental health concerns that will, hopefully, result in few of those cases needing incarceration.
  • We understand that confinement officers are not mental health specialists, addictions counselors or social workers and that a better path must exist for people to receive necessary care and treatment that jails cannot offer. We are committed to working toward solutions.
  • The County is not contemplating a new jail outside of downtown for riverfront or downtown development reasons; doing the right thing is the driving force behind our decisions and finding a large tract of land which has room for future growth is the purpose of our discussions. Riverfront development is absolutely not driving the discussion of a new jail facility.
 
May 6
  • In analyzing the situation, based on recommendations from the jail feasibility study, it does seem that a jail structure of some size will likely need to be built to adequately house the numbers of inmates present in the jail. The exact nature and size of the structure is undetermined at this time; it could be that we need to build a large facility for upwards of 1500 people, or it could be that we need build a substantially smaller facility due to recent legislation changes allowing more individuals to be sentenced to the Indiana Department of Corrections, among other things.
  • We know and understand that our Allen County and Fort Wayne residents are both curious and concerned as to where a potential jail structure will be built. We are uncertain presently but, in order to build a jail facility of the proper size for both now and the future, we need approximately 60-75 acres of land. This will allow for the size we need currently, and will allow for future expansion, if necessary. 
  • We are therefore searching for a parcel of land that is:
    • Approximately 60-75 acres;
    • Inside the I-69/I-469 loop;
    • On or near a bus route;
    • Not in a flood zone or flood way;
    • Served by or near public sewer;
    • Served by municipal water;
    • Has broadband available.

Allen County Seal RGB