Federal judge: You ‘better’ have a long-term plan, he tells county

Judge praises Allen County Sheriff and his team

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Condemning the indifference in Allen County, a federal judge on Thursday made no secret of his displeasure with Allen County commissioners who were unable to produce a plan to term to build or replace the downtown jail where overcrowding and understaffing have led to inhumane conditions.

“I’m really interested in the long-term plan,” Judge Damon R. Leichty told county attorneys Ted Storer and Laura Maser. A report expected on July 14 “better to include the long-term plan”, he added.

Leichty was in town for a status hearing at the downtown federal courthouse where attorneys for Allen County Sheriff David Gladieux and commissioners were ordered to appear after setting conditions in a notice of the court on March 31. Leichty sided with the ACLU and Allen County inmates who sued the county in January 2020 over the conditions and lack of security.

Sheriff David Gladieux (right) and Deputy Chief of Operations Gary Grant.

“If you think I’m just going to sit here and wait, I’m not,” Leichty told county prosecutors who had hoped to push back compliance for 90 or 180 days.

Ignoring calls to spend more time getting it right and getting environmental studies of possible sites for a prison complex, Leichty gave the county two weeks to convene a committee to help find short-term solutions. and long term and a month to choose property and hire an architect.

Another status hearing is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on August 25. That day, Leichty could hear from the activist group Help Not Handcuffs, which filed an amicus curiae brief on Thursday.

“The deadline was pretty clear set by my order,” Leichty said with some exasperation. Asking the lawyers when they had previously visited the prison, he barely waited for their response, remarking that if they had experienced those conditions they would have acted “quite differently”.

Turning his attention to Ken Falk, the ACLU’s legal director, he said the words “contempt of court” reiterated by Falk.

Falk said the plaintiffs — in this case, Allen County inmates and the ACLU — wanted specifics.

“I don’t want to see ‘we can do this, we can do that,'” Falk said. After the hearing, Falk, flanked by two interns and ACLU attorney Stevie Pactor, criticized the county’s efforts.

“The county was saying today that it didn’t know when it would have an architect, it didn’t know when it would have land, it didn’t know when it would have a final plan. Well, the county had plenty of time to figure that out,” Falk said.

Contrary to what he had to say about the county, its commissioners, and the county board responsible for jail and staff pay, Leichty praised Sheriff David Gladieux.

The number of detainees fell from an average of around 800 detainees to 680 on Thursday. Inmates sleeping in “boats” on the floor were reduced from a maximum of 150 at any one time to 23 on Thursday and inmate recreation hours were scheduled three times a week for inmates. who are eligible.

“The sheriff is often the entity least responsible” for reducing the prison population. “He can’t open the back door,” Falk said.

Leichty watched Gladieux seated between Deputy Chief David Butler, the Allen County Jail Commandant, and Allen County Commissioner Nelson Peters.

“I want to congratulate Sheriff Gladieux and his team,” he said. Even with progress in easing the problems at the prison, staffing continues to be an issue, especially with hiring people to do difficult work in a semi-rundown facility.

Sheriff’s attorney John Feighner said Gladieux secured funding from the county council last year to add 10 more containment officers to bring the total to 144, the department missing 17.

Therefore, the sheriff must come up with a plan to hire these officers, which Gladieux said he would be able to do.

As he left the meeting, Peters looked worried. When asked if county commissioners and stakeholders would be able to provide the report on the judge’s order, Peters initially replied that he didn’t know.

“It doesn’t look like we have a choice,” he added.

Michael J. Chiaramonte