The 400 cell block in the Jennings County Jail is packed with inmates as Sgt. Mike Mowery makes the rounds in 2016.
A major hurdle was cleared when the Indiana House of Representatives Monday voted in favor of State Rep. Randy Frye's (R-Greensburg) legislation designed to alleviate jail overcrowding by giving county jails the option to relocate low-level felons.
The vote was a lopsided 74-17 with 15 Democrats joining 59 Republicans in support of House Bill 1065.
"I'm very encouraged by the support for the bill from both sides of the aisle," Frye told the Plain Dealer Tuesday via telephone from the Statehouse in Indianapolis. "The representatives who voted against the bill said it was because they don't think it goes far enough. I have to find more funding, and I think I will now as the bill works through the Senate."
Frye, who represents about a third of Jennings County, said he authored the bill after receiving numerous requests from Jennings County officials to come up with a legislative remedy for the severe overcrowding issues at the Jennings County Jail. The county has been considering constructing a new jail facility with an estimated price tag of $23 million. Officials have put the brakes on proceeding after Frye revealed his legislation in December.
Jennings County isn't the only county plagued by jails filled to over capacity. According to the Indiana Supreme Court, nearly half of Indiana's 92 counties had a jail at or exceeding capacity in 2017.
"Matt Sporleder (president of the Jennings County Board of Commissioners), Judge (Jon) Webster and Judge (Gary) Smith, the sheriff candidates last year and everybody told me to look into the issue," Frye said. "Last year, we (the state legislature) voted to allow Jennings County to build a new jail (and to adopt a new income tax to fund the project). But we found out later that wasn't what the people wanted. I knew I'd better figure out a different way."
After months of exploring options and obtaining data, a plan has taken shape to address the issue preventing North Vernon from using its new reservoir as a source of water for its utility customers.
It is a rare opportunity for a teen to earn the right to say, "I am a published author!"
The Jennings County High School boys basketball team's slow start ended up being its downfall in a Hoosier Hills Conference matchup at Jeffersonville on Saturday night. The Panthers lost the game 80-60.
When the master of ceremonies announced her number, Adrianna Gasper was shocked - so shocked she momentarily froze.
DeeDee Ellis congratulates her granddaughter, Emy Ralston, after Ralston was crowned Jennings County Hospice Queen on Saturday. More photos from the 21st annual gala will be in next week's Plain Dealer.-Staff Photo by Bryce Mayer