At that time the jail housed 124 males and 47 female inmates. The facility is allowed 220 inmates total, but the 34 spaces allotted for female inmates is inadequate, Doak said.
A committee to look at the future needs of the jail is being formed by commissioners, who said they hope to convene it by early March.
Commissioner Kathleen Chandler said "the idea is to look at the jail population and get input from a variety of people involved with the criminal justice system to find out what the projected needs are."
"I must assume that one of the very early ideas with potential will be to add a pod onto the jail, and that costs money," Commissioner Tommie Jo Marsilio said.
Chandler said she is interested in looking at all options, including alternative sentencing and a drug court.
"I would like to explore that as a possibility for addressing some of the concerns," she said. "There is a growing population of folks who are using drugs, heroin or methamphetamine in particular."
Commissioners Marsilio and Maureen Frederick agreed that all options must be on the table.
Frederick said she is concerned about the ongoing staff and operational costs. One possibility may be to transport prisoners to surrounding county jails that have room, she and Chandler said.
The cost "might be comparable to what we're paying now" to house them in the Portage jail, Chandler said.
Frederick said other options could include "maybe a separate facility for nonviolent offenders" that could be cheaper to operate. She said she is concerned about the cost, and its effect on the county budget.
"Nobody likes to think about incurring more debt, but there are mandates,' she said, and "there are other departments in the county we have to be attentive to."
Doak said jail population has been increasing, but the female population is the immediate concern.
"The walls are bulging back there," Doak said. The numbers of female inmates started to increase eight months to a year ago, he said. The jail is permitted for 34 female inmates, but the population can run into the mid-40s, Doak said.
For seven months of last year Doak said the jail had a monthly average of 196 prisoners, with 47 females. Doak said there were times last year when they had as many as 60 females in the jail.
A state inspector cited the jail for having female inmates sleeping on mattresses on the floor of the day area in the women's pod.
Doak said having non-secured inmates can at times create unsafe conditions for inmates and staff as well as increase overtime for extra staff needed to supervise inmates.
When Marsilio toured the female area of the jail recently, she said she saw extra cots in the common area, outside of the cells.
"They have cots because we have more female prisoners than we have spots to put them. We can't mix populations, so we're kind of out of options," she said.
The state report also cited a lack of approved beds and space for sleeping, and lack of dayroom space for inmates, caused by putting mattresses on the dayroom floor. The report also said there were deficiencies in the annual fire inspection report and on documentation for required fire drills, and for required annual in-service training of correctional officers, administrators and supervisors.
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