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  • Writer's pictureBill Raines

Criminal Justice, Jail Overcrowding, Housing, Veterans Issues raised during Breakfast Friday Morning

BEDFORD - (February 11, 2022) - The Indiana Legislature is approximately a week over the half- way point through this year's legislative session. Indiana Senator Eric Koch, Rep. Chris May District 65 and Michael Davisson District 73 gave attendees to the Bedford Chamber of Commerce Breakfast with the Legislatures an update on this year's session.

(Sheriff Mike Branham asks for firearms fee revenue to be replaced with some kind of funding)

Following the updates and Question and Answer session allowed those in attendance the ability to ask questions and give feedback on the bills presented by the Indiana Senate and House.

(Lawrence County Veterans Affairs Officer talks with Senator Eric Koch this morning)

Criminal Justice, Jail Overcrowding and Veterans Issues dominated this morning's meeting with Lawrence County Sheriff Mike Branham telling Representative Chris May that House Bill 1004 would not provide very much relief to Lawrence County Jail.

" This bill will help counties with 40-50 inmates, but locally Lawrence County only houses 1 or 2 inmates," said Sheriff Branham.

Proud sponsor of the Lawrence County Zephyr

Rep. Chris May agreed that the bill would not probably help locally. However, May said we need to get to the root cause of what is causing the overcrowding here.

Rep. Michael Davisson District 73 and Rep. Chris May District 65 talk before "Breakfast with Legislature"

"What I am hearing locally is the various agencies have their own agenda for their agency. We cannot save them all, and we need to find the cause of what is driving high numbers of incarnation. I am not saying whether we need a larger jail or not, but we need to get these agencies together and find other solutions,"


Senator Koch told Branham that some county jails do not have the services that the Department of Corrections already have in place. The legislation under House Bill 1004 would give the judges the ability that some inmates may be sentenced to the Department of Corrections.

(Justice study calls for an 83,000 square feet jail at a cost to taxpayers of $46 Million)

Scott Smith president Lawrence County Council asked if there is an outside agency that can provide feedback to see if there are things that can work better than is currently being implemented locally.

Lawrence County has already been working on these solutions since overcrowding of 200 inmates a month under Sheriff's Sam Craig administration, and now the state is requiring every county to do the same thing. Sheriff Craig implemented a group to look at this very same issues.

Currently, under a Justice Study the Lawrence County Commissioners requested calls for a $46 Million Jail that will increase the capacity of the jail. The proposed jail is proposed at 83,000 square feet.

Sheriff Branham also asked for some kind of funds to replenish firearms training after the legislature removed fess for gun permits. " We were promised those funds would be replaced at this time it has not. Currently, my fund is about empty. I am all for the 2nd Ammendment but we need the money for training," said Branham.

The Indiana Sheriff's Association gathered on January 13th and this was a topic for the legislative conference was the lack of gun fee replacement. Every since handgun fees were all but eliminated by the Indiana Legislature has dried up. Legislatures were suppose to be a replacement fund put in place that qualified law enforcement agencies could seek in the form of grants. The funds to Sheriff's department is distributed by the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute which is a state agency.

What that means is qualifying police agencies throughout the state cannot access money that used to have for firearm purchases, buying ammunition, firearms training and related purchases.

Bedford Police Department made a special order of ammunition earlier this year because ammunition was hard to find.

Rep. Ben Smaltz made it a priority to eliminate handgun licensing all together, which many law enforcement agencies oppose. Last year, the licensing fee was eliminated and the money that went to law enforcement was supposed to be back filled as part of the budget.

This came as Smaltz's " constitutional carry" bill passed the House and had wide support in the Senate then did not get a hearing in the chamber as the session ended. At the last minute the fees were removed, and grant fund put in place.

For most sheriff's departments in the State of Indiana for every lifetime permit issued for $125 that was collected, most departments received around $75.

Lawrence County Veterans Affairs Officer Brad Bough asked for the legislature support in getting a Vietnam Veteran plate, as well as medical facilty in southern Indiana. State Representative Davisson asked Bough for data supporting those efforts.

(Lawrence County Veterans Affairs Officer requested a Vietnam Veteran plate similar to this one for Vietnam Vets)

Representative May addressed housing needs within the state, as well as, Dr. Ty Mungle asked about legislation to support closed schools being used for Juvenile facilities, business spaces, and other purposes. Many school corporations just allow their buildings to be abandoned and sit and rot. The corporations usually resort to this after closures because by law they have to be offered to charter schools first.

Joe Timbrook asked about any legislation that would Support Next Level Jobs for local school corporations. " Locally, the efforts have been going quite well, but around the state this is not the case, legislation is not in the pipeline yet," said May.

The event was well attended by public, public officials and business owners who was there to interact with the legislators.

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