Funding for Allen County Community Corrections will increase, at least for the next two years, and along with that, hundreds of thousands of dollars in county tax dollars.
This week, Allen County Council on Thursday approved $344,000 for additional staff, even though community corrections officials say they are having difficulty hiring the 13 positions approved last year.
The vote was 6-1, with Councilman Bob Armstrong voting no. Yes votes included Council Chairman Kyle Kerley, Tom Harris, Sheila Curry Campbell, former Allen County Sheriff Ken Fries, Chris Spurr and Paul Lagemann.
Positions approved in this round include two house arrest officers at nearly $53,000 in annual salaries, a surveillance/communications specialist at $47,000, and a surveillance technician at nearly $42,000.
Community Corrections, a program fully funded by the state until 2020 when the county was asked to top up its budget, is designed to give offenders a second chance at reform through resolution courts of trouble and emptying the prison of many low-level offenders.
The total budget presented last month at the Allen County Community Corrections Advisory Board meeting was $12.9 million, a figure that is ‘seven times’ what the release program cost of the smaller county’s funded sheriff’s job until it closed two years ago, Spurr said.
Latest figures from the Allen County Auditor show the county’s funding for community corrections has increased from $2 million in 2020 to $4.7 million in 2021. This year, the county approved $5.247 million in dollars.
Of that $12.9 million, the breakdown is $5.247 million from the county, $3.851 million from the Indiana Department of Corrections, and $3.4 million expected from user fees.
The balance in the user fee column is $1.385 million with an estimated revenue this year of $2.050 million. According to figures provided to WANE 15 this week, there are 187 offenders living at Cook Road Residential Services Center and 523 offenders in house arrest. These offenders are tracked by 137 employees, 19 of whom carry tasers and 34 are certified to use pepper spray.
The Allen County Sheriff’s Work Release Program housed up to 103 offenders who lived in a county-operated facility and worked on the release until the end of their sentence. The program employed approximately 18 staff members and the cost of the program in 2019, the last full year, was $1.4 million.
“If the inmate was there for a drug or alcohol offence, they would have to take drug or alcohol classes. The charge for the crime would dictate which classes the offender would attend,” Allen County Sheriff’s Department Public Information Officer Steve Stone said in an email.
Kyle Kerley, chairman of Allen County Council, said the council is committed to supporting the growing community corrections program, even with additional funding, if needed.
“We are working with our legislators to get even more additional funding for community corrections, but when we embarked on this program, we knew it would take two to three years before we could even determine if we are seeing the results we are seeing. we expect to see with this type of program,” Kerley said Thursday after the meeting.
The results would include less recidivism and less prison population. The latter has not yet happened, according to population figures which show that there is never a day when the number of offenders is close to 741, the number for which the prison is built.
Councilor Sheila Curry Campball said the community corrections program is needed.
“The criminal justice system needs to be reformed,” Curry Campbell said in a phone interview. “We need to give them (community corrections) all the tools to be successful. I know many people who are trying to change their lives and some programs offer a way out. »
Once people enter the criminal justice system, getting out of it can be impossible, she said. Some people “find themselves stuck in the system from a very young age until the age of 60. It’s very difficult to get out. »
With the challenges of hiring people and retaining them, Curry Campbell suggests creating a database of people, perhaps offering a bonus or other incentives for people to come to work in corrections.
“We have to think outside the box,” said Curry Campbell.
Kerley said it takes time “to give them (community corrections) a chance to prove themselves. I would say that for the foreseeable future, we will continue to work with community corrections to determine what their immediate needs are and what they need to make this program a success and find ways to not only stay within their current budget, but if they do need additional funding, that’s something we’ll consider.
Although Fries voted for the extra funds Thursday, he wondered who was being accepted into the program.
An offender whom Fries did not identify was accepted with a Felony 4 convicted armed robber and a trail of probation violations. He eventually fled house arrest and remains at large, Fries said.
“It happens,” said the Community Corrections representative.
“I think we need to come up with alternative sentences,” Fries said, “but these people who are convicted of these crimes. They’ve been given chance after chance, it’s time for them to go to the DOC (Department of Correction .)”
The Sheriff’s Work Release Program ended in August 2020 after 77 applications to be accepted into the program were denied by Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull and Magistrate Samuel Keirns in a span of time approximately between November 2019 and May 2020.
Allen County Sheriff David Gladieux believed he would share the newly renovated Cook Road facility with Community Corrections and be able to increase the number of participants in the county-funded program.
With the names of his employees on the doors of the new facility, he realized he couldn’t go on without clients and his employees left, sometimes to be hired by community corrections, Gladieux said. He called the request denials “underhanded” and a “coup”, but Gull said she believed the sentences should be “court-ordered and court-monitored”. Gull is chair of the Community Corrections Advisory Council and Allen Circuit Court Judge Wendy Davis is vice-chair.
The sheriff’s work release program could be revived, Kerley said, when the new jail is built. A 40-50 bed facility built at the prison, but separated from the prison population, is under consideration, he added.
Allen County commissioners have scheduled a meeting for 10 a.m. Feb. 25 in Citizens Square to request a feasibility study for a new jail, the first step in a process that could take between three and 10 years to see a new one. prison built, Kerley mentioned.