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Prosecutor “Sets Record Straight” On Jail Issue

Posted On November 22, 2011
Negangard

Dearborn-Ohio County

Prosecutor Aaron Negangard

(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) – As defense attorneys decry the idea, Dearborn County Prosecutor Aaron Negangard is making the argument for an expansion of the Dearborn County Law Enforcement Center.

 

Dearborn County Council will meet Tuesday evening to discuss the proposed expansion of the county jail with a price tag of between $8.4 and $9.3 million. The figure has been widdled down from more than $14 million when costs of the project were first discussed earlier this year. Annual operating costs of a larger jail could approach $1 million according to estimates.

 

The project was approved by Dearborn County Commissioners on a 2-1 vote November 1, however, it cannot begin until County Council approves the funding, likely using a good chunk of the county’s riverboat revenue fund.

 

The project has had its critics – most notably Lawrenceburg defense attorneys Doug Garner and Alan Miller, who announced his candidacy for Dearborn Superior Court II judge as a Democrat in September.

 

Negangard is critical of a letter written last week and another in June by Garner opposing the possible jail expansion. In it, Garner accused the local justice system of holding to many non-violent and misdemeanor offenders, leading to an overcrowding problem.

 

“The time has come to set the record straight with regard to the local criminal justice system,” Negangard’s response issued Tuesday read.

 

WEIGH IN ON THE JAIL EXPANSION ISSUE ON OUR FACEBOOK PAGE

 

Garner and Miller’s June letter cited a study of the jail situation by Indianapolis-based engineering firm RQAW, the project planner.  Using the data from the study, the attorneys claimed 45 percent of the people being held in jail were there on misdemeanors.

 

“However, the RQAW study statistic was referring to the type of charges processed through the jail for the entire year not at any one time,” Negangard said. “The actual data from the Dearborn County Sheriff’s Department shows that approximately 85 percent of the inmates are being held on felony charges.  In fact, around the time they wrote their letter on June 29, 2011 of the 220 inmates being held in jail, 188 were being held on felonies.”

 

“This means that either Garner and Miller do not understand the problem or are intentionally trying to mislead the public,” the prosecutor said.

 

Last week’s editorial issued by Garner claimed the prosecutor and law enforcement were locking up individuals and throwing away the key. Negangard took exception to the accusation.

 

The county’s three judges have worked to keep offenders out from behind bars when possible, he said.

“Judge (Jonathan) Cleary and Judge (Sally) Blankenship have worked together to start a problem solving court called the ACC court which focuses on treatment. Judge (James) Humphrey has been instrumental in starting an adult intensive probation program as an alternative to incarceration. That being said, if these individuals do not follow the rules of the program or otherwise fail the program, then jail is the only alternative left.”

 

An expansion would also allow more inmates to participate in the Jail Chemical Addiction Program, providing counselling to inmates. Due to space constraints the number of people who can participate in this program at any one time is 16 – simply not enough to meet demand, Negangard said.

 

About 40 percent of the jail’s population is being held on probation violations.

 

“People who have been given a break and failed to follow the rules,” Negangard states.

 

The alternative to a jail expansion, the prosecutor claims, is not arresting or incarcerating people who commit crimes.

 

“We should catch and release fish, not criminals,” Negangard said. “The facts prove when you lock up criminals, crime goes down!”

 

The prosecutor also makes basic arguments for the expansion. The county has vastly changed and grown since the current law enforcement center was built in 1991.

 

“In the 1990′s, we saw the advent of riverboat gaming, the largest methadone clinic in the entire nation moved in Greendale and we experienced significant population growth.  These factors along with the recent influx of heroin in our community has brought significant demands to our criminal justice system.”

 

“We are no longer a community where we can leave our doors unlocked,” Negangard said.

 

County Council meets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the County Administration Building in Lawrenceburg. The meeting is open to the public.

 

The following is Dearborn County Prosecutor Aaron Negangard’s full response to Garner and Miller:

 

The time has come to set the record straight with regard to the local criminal justice system. The Dearborn County Law Enforcement was built in 1991. Dearborn County has been forever changed since that time. In the 1990′s, we saw the advent of riverboat gaming, the largest methadone clinic in the entire nation moved in Greendale and we experienced significant population growth.  These factors along with the recent influx of heroin in our community has brought significant demands to our criminal justice system.  We are no longer a community where we can leave our doors unlocked.

 

In June of this year, Douglas Garner and Democrat candidate for Superior Court Judge, Alan Miller wrote a letter citing that 45% of the people being held in jail were on misdemeanor charges. They cited the RQAW study to support this statistic. However, the RQAW study statistic was referring to the type of charges processed through the jail for the entire year not at any one time. The actual data from the Dearborn County Sheriff’s Department shows that approximately 85% of the inmates are being held on felony charges.  In fact, around the time they wrote their letter on June 29, 2011 of the 220 inmates being held in jail,188 were being held on felonies.  This means that either Garner and Miller do not understand the problem or are intentionally trying to mislead the public. In any case, they have not stated the truth.  The truth that our jail is being used to protect the public from dangerous individuals, who are charged with attempted murder, child molesting, rape, drug dealing, robbery, burglary, forgery, and theft. 

 

Many of the people in our jail committed crimes to help pay for drugs.  These people are potentially very dangerous. Early this year in Decatur county a mother tortured her 12 year old son to death because he wouldn’t tell her where he hid her drugs. He had hidden the drugs because he didn’t like how mom acted on her drugs. In Franklin County, a family and their neighbor were brutally murdered because of drugs.  A two year old little girl was left to wander the carnage where her mother laid dead.  This is the power drugs has over people and the lengths they will go to get them.

 

Simply putting these people on work release or in-home incarceration is not enough.  The northern part of Dearborn County was terrorized early this year by an individual who had failed to return to work release in Nebraska.  These programs are being used significantly but it is important to make sure these individuals are appropriate for these programs before placing them on in-home incarceration or work release.

 

Recently the law firm of Zerbe, Garner, Miller and Blondell has submitted another letter demonstrating their failure to grasp these issues.  The recent correspondence suggests that we are just locking up and throwing away the key on these individuals.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  

 

Our community is dealing with an epidemic of opiate abuse. High school students have access to heroin.  It should be noted that it takes an opiate addict 40 years before his brain chemistry returns to normal.  To deal with this crisis Judge Sally Blankenship with the cooperation of other elected officials started the Jail Chemical Addiction Program (JCAP).  This allows opiate addicts to receive counselling while they are incarcerated in our local jail.  This helps to put these individuals on the right course before they are back in society.  I personally have spoke to many of these individuals and am always impressed at how far they have come.  Without Judge Blankenship’s leadership on this issue JCAP would not exist. One of the reasons to increase the capacity of the jail is to expand this program. Due to space constraints the number of people who can participate in this program at any one time is 16.  This is not enough to meet the demand.

 

Judge Cleary and Judge Blankenship have worked together to start a problem solving court called the ACC court which focuses on treatment. Judge Humphrey has been instrumental in starting an adult intensive probation program as an alternative to incarceration. That being said, if these individuals do not follow the rules of the program or otherwise fail the program, then jail is the only alternative left.

 

Many people in jail are in jail for probation violations.  In fact, approximately 40% of the jail population is being held on probation violations.  These are people who have been given a break and failed to follow the rules.  Most of the probation violations are failed drug tests. Many of these people have failed multiple times.  If someone cannot follow the law they need to be held accountable for their failure to obey the law.

 

The fact is that jail is operating above capacity and we need to increase it’s capacity. We could simply not arrest or incarcerate people who commit crimes. We should catch and release fish, not criminals.  It is no coincidence that in the 1990′s when States started increasing penalties on habitual offenders that violent crime started to fall. Nationwide incarceration rates are high but the violent crime rate is low.  The facts prove when you lock up criminals, crime goes down!

 

Our elected officials have foreseen this need and that is why years ago we started saving money to expand our jail.  Our elected officials should move forward with the jail expansion only if it is done economically and without raising taxes. They need to be certain we get the most out of every dollar we spend.  This can be done. Garner and Miller have suggested that this jail expansion will cost each resident of Dearborn County $26 a year. I believe this cost estimate is an exaggeration, but who would not be willing to protect themselves and their family for the cost of a dinner at Frisch’s.

 

The fact is our law enforcement officers, jail officers, probation officers, Judges and all those who work in our criminal justice system are doing everything they can to keep Dearborn County a safe place to live.  The public safety of the citizens of this County should never be compromised. Certain criminal defense attorneys may be willing to compromise public safety by not telling the public the truth.  However, it is the job of the elected officials of this County to make decisions that will keep Dearborn County and it’s citizens safe.  They have done so and I believe they will continue to make the right decisions to protect our families.

 

Aaron Negangard

Prosecuting Attorney for Dearborn and Ohio Counties

 

LINKS:

 

With Jail Project On Verge, Lawyer Makes Plea

 

Commissioners Pass Jail Plan To Council

 

Lawyers Want Court Changes, Not Larger Jail

 

Lawyers Argue Against Jail Project

 

VIDEO: Dearborn County Pushing For Jail Expansion

  

Dearborn Jail Funding Ideas Given; Cost Up To $14.8M

 

Price Of Jail Expansion Comes Close To Referendum