Lawrence County Annual Jail report

BEDFORD – Lawrence County Sheriff Mike Branham presented the 2021 Annual Jail Report to the commissioners Tuesday morning.

The jail was open in July 1990 and could house 88 inmates. The Security Center was double-bunked in 1992, increasing the capacity to 168. The indoor recreation room was converted to dorm housing in 2016, further increasing the capacity to 180.

The jail has a disciplinary segregation cell block that can house four inmates. There are four medical segregation cells, a padded cell that was renovated in September 2007, and a holding area that can hold 12 inmates.

From January 1, 2021, through December 2021 there were 1,607 inmates processed into the jail. Jailers booked in an average of 4 inmates per day. There were 1,581 inmates released from the facility during the same time period.

From January 1, 2020, through December 2020 there were 1,580 inmates processed into the jail. Jailers booked in an average of 4 inmates per day. There were 1,618 inmates released from the jail during the same time period.

The average daily population for 2021 was 155, with a low point of 139 in January, and a high of 167 in November. The average length of stay for an inmate during 2021 was 35.7 days.

The average daily population for 2020 was 142, with a low point of 104 in January, and a high of 182 in November. The average length of stay for an inmate during 2020 was 33.7 days.

The reduction in arrests and average daily population from 2019 through 2021 is attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic and the efforts made by the courts, prosecutors, public defenders to reduce the population of the jail of non-violent, low-level offenders as well as efforts by all of the local police officers to keep booking numbers down by issuing citations when possible, rather than bringing low level, nonviolent offenders to jail.

The jail is currently understaffed by six officers.

The top ten reasons people were arrested in 2021 were:

  • Meth – 371
    Possession of meth – 360
    Dealing meth – 60
  • Battery – 255
    Domestic – 137
    Other battery – 118
  • Operating a vehicle while intoxicated – 251
  • Failure to appear – 226
  • Petition to revoke – 177
  • Marijuana – 154
    Possession of marijuana – 154
    Dealing marijuana – 8
  • Theft – 137
  • Unlawful possession of a syringe – 125
  • Resisting law enforcement – 121

The following is a list representing the top ten reasons for incarceration in 2020.

  • Meth – 341
    Possession of meth – 308
    Dealing meth – 33
  • Operating a vehicle while intoxicated – 281
  • Failure to appear – 221
  • Marijuana – 219
    Possession of marijuana – 206
    Dealing marijuana – 13
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia – 177
  • Battery – 196
    Domestic – 109
    Other battery – 87
  • Petition to revoke – 182
  • Resisting law enforcement – 127
  • Unlawful possession of a syringe – 122
  • Theft – 98

There were two in-custody deaths in the jail in 2021. There were no escapes or attempted escapes.

On-site programming was suspended in March 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions and the unwillingness of volunteers to come to the jail for programming. Programming has resumed.

Programs offered to inmates:

Indiana High School Equivalency (HSE) Exam Classes and a literacy program. The program is offered once a week. High School Equivalency (HSE) Exam Classes are provided by Vincennes University and there is no cost for inmates to attend.

A variety of religious services are available at the jail and are offered several times a week. Volunteers conduct and oversee these services.

Centerstone also continues to provide the POPS program to incarcerated fathers.

In November 2021 Purdue University along with the Lawrence County Growth Council teamed with the jail for a next-level jobs program, teamed with the Lawrence Count Security Center. This 10-day workforce class teaches the fundamentals of manufacturing and upon graduation provides an OSHA 10 certificate to better help offenders find employment after incarceration. There have been 42 participants in this program (28 males and 14 females) from November 2021 until February 2022. This program is INTraining and WORKIndiana approved.

There is also an “inmate work” program utilizing low-risk inmates for various jobs inside the jail, including working in the kitchen preparing meals and doing laundry and general cleaning. There are nine inmates workers who work a combined 72 hours per day, every day. If the jail staff had to be utilized for these tasks, it would cost Lawrence County an additional $1,204 per day or $429,460 per year, based on starting jail officer pay.

In January 2022, the industrial clothes dryer for inmate laundry was replaced at a cost of $5,338 as the existing unit was beyond feasible repair.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, several new items were purchased for the jail with CARES Act funding including a portable UV light used for disinfecting areas of the jail, UV lighting was installed in the air handlers through the facility to destroy airborne pathogens. A high-volume sprayer was purchased to do rapid applications of disinfectants throughout the building. Temperature scanning stations were purchased and are located at the two entrances of the jail and two scanning stations were placed at the entrances of the Sheriff’s Department.

The Lawrence County commissioners authorized a jail feasibility study in July 2021 by RQAW Architecture. The results of that study recommend the replacement of the aging and outdated facility and included plans for a modern security campus.

“We have been faced with many operating issues at the Lawrence County Security Center such as overcrowding, major mechanical components that have reached the end of their serviceability, and outdated control systems that are difficult to find replacement parts for,” said Sheriff Mike Branham.

In January 2022 a jail exploratory committee was formed to evaluate the possibility of replacing the current facility. This diverse group consists of representatives of the Sheriff, Jail, Superior Courts, Prosecutors, Public Defenders, Commissioners, County Council, Auditor’s Office as well as legal counsel. This committee will examine cost, needs, financing, and acquiring a location suitable for a new campus with future expansion capabilities that will promote security and safety for officers and inmates alike.