Elkhart County Sheriff's Office

Juvenile Detention Location and Family Visitation of Inmates

Question: The Juvenile Detention facility in Goshen needs a new location. Why can’t you utilize unused beds in the newer jail for these juvenile offenders?

Answer: On average there is anywhere from 11-18 juveniles in Juvenile Detention in Goshen on any given date. Due to innovations through the Elkhart County Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI), great progress has been made in reducing the number of juveniles in detention and those being sent to the Department of Corrections.

Adult offenders, which also include youthful offenders who have been waived to adult court due to the seriousness of their crime, have different standards for incarceration than do juveniles who are being held in Juvenile Detention. Not only are there sight and sound separation requirements, there are also programming differences. Juveniles require different levels of supervision, recreation, education, counseling, and health care.

Each ward, or living area, in the newer jail has 48 beds. This is far more than is needed by current Juvenile Detention demands. In fact, millions of dollars in renovations would be required, including constructing a new intake entrance, to convert the jail to house juveniles. This process, would then in turn limit the future capacity of the jail.

The jail was built to be an adult jail and needs to stay an adult jail. Juvenile Detention should be a separate facility meeting state juvenile standards. It could be built on the same campus as the jail to allow collaboration of resources for food service, medical, laundry and other efficiencies inherent in having two facilities in close proximity on the same campus, including the use of methane from the landfill to heat the building.

Question: I know of an inmate who had a baby while in jail. The baby was placed with relatives for care. The mother is not allowed to visit or have contact with the baby while she is in the jail. Why?

Answer: I am very empathetic with the bonding processes that occur between mother and child. However, the advantages of bonding may be jeopardized anyway by the mother being in jail or prison for quite some time.

Understanding that video visits are far from ideal for the child, I have experienced that a child, regardless of age, can be a pawn in the security dynamics of a jail. Because a child, at the guidance of an adult, can be manipulated and have been used for trafficking drugs and contraband through a variety of means (mouth, clothes, diaper, etc.) to the inmate, I have a policy that avoids contact visits between children and incarcerated parents. It’s an unfortunate reality in today’s world, but the prohibition is in place for safety and security for the staff, visitors (including the children), inmates and the community.

We do allow for free on-site video visitation for any child and their parent in jail. In addition, children, family, friends, and attorneys can actually visit with an inmate from the comfort and privacy of home or office using our new remote visit technology. For a nominal fee, the visitor uses their computer and webcam/microphone to facilitate the connection to the inmate in jail. All on-site and remote visits must be scheduled 24 hours in advance.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Sheriff Brad Rogers