Marion Co jail riot and problems

Betty Q. Hixson

INDIANAPOLIS (FOX59) – The revelations that twice last week Marion County Sheriff’s deputies faced a rumored cellblock takeover and anticipated ambush inside the Adult Detention Center have Republicans at the local and state level calling for an examination of staffing and operations at the new county jail and for the governor to consider calling in state assets, including the Indiana National Guard, to back up the sheriff.

As FOX59 News has exclusively reported, more than two dozen Marion County judges took part in a virtual conference with Sheriff Kerry Forestal and his command staff last week as Presiding Judge Amy Jones described the security situation inside the jail as a “powder keg ready to blow,” and Jail Commander Deputy Chief Tanesha Crear warned, “I just don’t know how any of us would feel when or if we get a call that a deputy has been killed. That’s where we are at this time.”

Sheriff Forestal has not responded to a request for an on-camera interview to explain the challenges his deputies face inside the just-opened facility.

“When I walked through the jail at the end of December, of course there wasn’t anybody in there, but there was still a lot of work going on,” said State Senator Jack Sandlin, a Republican representing Indianapolis’ southside. “It raises a question in my mind of, ‘Were we ready to occupy the facility when we did?’”

Forestal said the City County Council banned private jail operations in Marion County as of January 31st forcing an end to the sheriff’s contract with Core Civic to operate Jail II on East Washington Street which housed approximately 1100 inmates.

The last of those inmates were relocated to the ADC this weekend.

“Safety is number one,” said Councilor Michael-Paul Hart, a Republican representing southeast Marion County. “Everybody that works in that jail, and is in that jail, they are members of our society. They are residents of Indianapolis and they’re our neighbors and we live and go to work with them and the day that one of those individuals dies is a day too late. We cannot wait for that day to happen.”

Judge Jones said that the security inside the ADC has her concerned about the safety of court staffs in the yet-to-be-occupied courthouse.

The judges also complained that glitches and staffing issues with the ADC’s video court system and transportation issues between the Community Justice Center and the City-County Building where in-person hearing are still being held have thwarted court operations.

“It really looks like they don’t have a plan,” said Hart. “They had five years to come together and get a plan together but between facilities, between operations, between officers and staff and safety, there’s no plan, and if the Sheriff doesn’t have one, he needs to come out and say he doesn’t have a plan.”

Forestal said his detention deputies are outnumbered 140:1 and that budget constraints have stymied his attempts to hire more jail officers.

“I can guarantee you there are hundreds of security firms around this city that would be more than happy to take some contracts and come in and keep our jail safe. We need to put out bids to get contracts to come in and fill those roles and have those responsibilities met,” said Hart. “If it’s gonna take calling in the National Guard to get here, then go that route. If it’s the state police that have to come here, go that route. If there’s any other law enforcement agency that has the ability to come in and do it, then let’s do it. We cannot let safety be a concern here.”

Sources at the state level have told FOX59 News that the Indiana State Police and the Indiana Department of Correction are aware of the ADC security issues and the sheriff’s struggle to adequately staff the facility.

IMPD has conferred with multiple agencies regarding potential response scenarios should violence erupt inside the jail.

It would take a request from either the Sheriff or Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett to Governor Eric Holcomb to seek those assets.

“We have military police, people who have custody training that are in the Indiana National Guard. We have medical personnel,” said Sandlin who has spoken with other Marion County state lawmakers about the ADC dilemma. “We could talk to the governor and the Governor’s staff about doing something different to help Marion County on a very temporary basis.

“Counties have utilized other facilities around the state in the past. There should be a request to look at what capacity exists not only in our other county jails but even at the state DOC and what might be available there.

“I can’t see that we’re gonna be able to effectively occupy that jail given the resources that are currently there.”

Hart wants the supermajority Democrats on the City-County Council to call Forestal in to give testimony regarding the current jail operations and challenges.

“We can call the meetings. We have had luck getting those meetings in the past and I think it is time that we do it again,” he said. “We are in the process of starting that now and if Kerry Forestal, our sheriff, is trying to let that die and go by, we will not let that happen.”

Sources within the inmate and public communities tell FOX59 News that inmates are missing court dates, dinner meals are not being served until after eleven p.m., legal paperwork and personal items have been lost and medical issues are unaddressed.

The Sheriffs Office disputed the characterization of the security issues last week rising to the issue of a, “near riot,” but admitted that, “minor issues,” have plagued the remote hearing system, commissary services have finally resumed, the inmates have damaged the plumbing, the wristband identification system has not been compromised by inmates and while a prisoner broke a window, “it didn’t result in a security issue.”

Republicans call for National Guard over new jail security worries

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