Ind. sheriff hires 17 COs to address jail staff shortage

The hiring of nearly 20 new officers will help address the longstanding understaffing issues at the jail

By Lauren Cross
The Times

LAKE COUNTY, Ind. — The Lake County Sheriff's Department swore in 17 newly hired jail corrections officers Wednesday to address manpower shortages and fulfill requirements of a longstanding federal Department of Justice consent decree.

The manpower shortages have long plagued the county's Corrections Department, according to a news release.

Sheriff Oscar Martinez swore in 17 officers Wednesday as part of his mission to increase salaries and improve working conditions through budgeting, according to Emiliano Perez, department spokesman.

"The results (are) better qualified candidates interested in joining the ranks of the Lake County Corrections Department, and fulfilling the requirements of the Department Of Justice agreement," Perez said.

The jail has been under a consent decree since 2010 following a series of inmate suicides, infectious disease outbreaks and inmate injuries. Those events prompted a Department of Justice civil rights investigation that concluded the jail failed to meet federal standards.

The jail received 14,571 inmates in 2016, according to the sheriff's annual jail report. The jail has 1,050 beds and had an average population of 698 inmates last year. The jail employs about 220 corrections officers.

Last year alone, the county spent nearly $6 million to comply with the federal settlement agreement to provide health care to inmates who frequently suffer from medical and mental health issues, in addition to the nearly $17 million it costs to feed and guard inmates and maintain the building.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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