HANCOCK COUNTY — The Hancock County prosecutor is making a plea for more positions and more help, saying public safety is at risk.
It’s an update to a problem WRTV Investigates has been tracking for months—the growing Attorney Shortage.
The Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council (IPAC) says Indiana needs 440 prosecutors to be adequately staffed, which would cost an estimated $53 million in state funding to rectify.
Only 11% of Indiana counties have adequate staffing to meet its workload, WRTV Investigates found.
On January 30, Hancock County prosecutor Brent Eaton appeared before the county commissioners and council to plead for more positions.
"I'm here in support of further staffing for the prosecutor's office," said Eaton. "We would be incredibly grateful for anything that can be done. We find ourselves like a lot of prosecutor offices around the state in the midst of a staffing crisis."
Eaton wants to add at least two more prosecutors and a paralegal this year.
“A starving man doesn’t complain about how much food he gets,” said Eaton. “He’s just happy to eat.”
In December 2023, we showed you Hancock County had a total of seven prosecutors for a county serving more than 80,000 people.
They’ve since added one more, bringing them to eight total prosecutors.
According to a new analysis from Eaton’s office and the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, Hancock County should have 13 prosecutors to be adequately staffed.
The shortage is burning out the staff Eaton does have, like Chief Deputy Prosecutor Aimee Herring, who estimates she worked more than 500 hours of unpaid overtime in 2023—hours for which she does not receive any additional compensation.
The average salary (not starting) for a deputy prosecutor in Indiana is $69,777, according to IPAC.
Meanwhile, the typical law school graduate carries $130,000 in education debt.
“We can’t keep up at this pace,” said Herring. “We're already in crisis mode in our office. We're just treading water and it's only going to get worse."
County council member Jeannine Gray asked Eaton how many cases he’s handling himself.
“In the last year, I carried the docket for Court 1, I carried the docket for Court 2, I carried the docket for Circuit Court,” responded Eaton. “I do all the behavioral court, I do all the drug court. In the months of March April and May, I was on call about half the time."
At least one council member, Scott Wooldridge, is very concerned about Hancock County’s prosecutor shortage.
“Prosecutors do more work than public defenders,” said Wooldridge. “There’s a lot more that goes in advance to a court case being filed that public defenders don’t do.”
Wooldridge is also an attorney.
On January 25, he sent a memo to the Hancock County council and commissioners urging them to approve 2 deputy prosecutors and a paralegal this year.
In 2025, he suggests adding another paralegal, an investigator and an administrative assistant.
Wooldridge noted Hancock County’s staffing levels are below other surrounding counties like Boone, Hamilton, Hendricks, and Morgan.
"I want to be the type of county who has the proper amount of attorneys," said Wooldridge.
His memo also points out that Hancock County’s are currently in line with counties like Lake and Marion.
“Those are counties that have multiple murders,” said Wooldridge. “I don’t want to be that type of county.”
Attorneys say state lawmakers have been slow to pass any legislation that would address the shortage in a meaningful way.
Leaving county prosecutors to plead with county councils to fund more positions.
"I'm hopeful we can turn around this crisis soon,” said Eaton.
County leaders did not make a decision at the January 30 meeting.
The Hancock County commissioners are expected to make a recommendation to the county council. No word yet on when that will happen.
WRTV Investigates reached out to them for comment and we are still waiting to hear back.
You can watch our entire series here: Attorney Shortage.