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Correctional services consolidation bill drawing fire

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Community corrections advocates are worried that a proposal to consolidate the Marion County probation and community corrections departments would take local decision-making away from community members and give more control to judges.

The fears are fueled by a bill authored by Sen. R. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis. Senate Bill 171 would establish a three-year pilot project to consolidate the operations, funding and staffs of the Marion Superior Court Probation Department and the Marion County Community Corrections Program.
 

white-tess-mug.jpg Young

The unified program would be named the Marion Superior Court Community Supervision Department.

Young pointed to smaller communities around Indiana that have merged their probation and community corrections agencies and said his intent is to see if combining the departments in larger communities will save money and improve efficiencies.

That community corrections representatives have concerns bewilders Young. He emphasized his proposal is not the end but the beginning, and he said he doesn’t know whether the bill even gets through the Statehouse or what it will look like if it does.

However, he said he wants to try to consolidate the departments to determine what works, what doesn’t, and what is the best action to take.

Officials from community corrections programs around the state say they are not opposed to collaborating with probation departments. They are willing to look for new ways to work together and share resources. But they want the community corrections advisory boards to retain the ability to shape and direct the programs that produce positive results in their own municipalities.

“Collaboration is fine, but it should be something that comes from the community,” said Superior Judge Barbara Crawford, the vice chair of the Marion County Community Corrections Programs.

SB 171 would structure the consolidation so that the probation department would be overseeing the community corrections agency. The individual leading the new program – whose title would be chief probation officer and executive director of community corrections – would be appointed by and report directly to the executive committee created under the bill and a supervising judge.

Although the bill calls for the new leader to consult with the community corrections advisory board, opponents of the measure fear the public’s voice would be lost.

Crawford interpreted Young’s proposal as making community corrections subordinate to probation rather than continuing as a separate, independent agency with its own mission and responsibility.

“There are lots of ways to collaborate and share resources,” Crawford said, “and there’s nothing wrong with doing a consolidation pilot that recognizes both as independent agencies without one being subsumed by the other.”

Young said the bill makes sure that both probation and community corrections have equal representation on the executive committee. Moreover, he contends that committee will set the goals and guidelines for the consolidated program just like the advisory boards do now.

Christine Kerl, chief probation officer for Marion Superior Court Probation, has served on a community corrections advisory board and remembered the members all being very committed and diligent to their work in overseeing the community corrections department.

Since the duties of the advisory board have been established by statute, Kerl said Young’s bill should contain language that clearly defines the role of the advisory boards when departments are merged.

On the idea of consolidation, in general, Kerl said the position of the Probation Officers’ Professional Association of Indiana was that such decisions should be made at the local level.

Creating programs

Although he applauds Young’s efforts to foster cooperation between different agencies, Bill Watson, director of Vigo County Community Corrections, is not convinced members from the community would retain control of programs, procedures and budgets.

He is concerned that the power over community corrections will be transferred from the local advisory board to a single judge. The consequence of getting just one point of view could be programs that do not serve the unique needs of each county and that fail to anticipate the future needs.

As an example, he pointed to the Vigo County Community Corrections advisory board which has professionals coming from the judiciary, law enforcement, business, education and mental health services.

Six years ago when Vigo County started a work-release program, the advisory board was very active in laying the foundation and formulating how the initiative would operate, the criteria for people entering and what services would be offered. Each member of the board brought his or her own perspective, which helped create a well-rounded addition to community corrections in the county.

“It really helped shape the program because everyone pointed out something that if you didn’t work in that realm, you didn’t think about,” Watson said, who is also president of the Indiana Association of Community Corrections Act Counties.

Grant County consolidated its probation and community corrections departments into a unified system more than 20 years ago. According to the organizational chart, the correctional services are overseen by a director who is under the county’s Circuit and Superior courts.

Chris Cunningham, director of Grant County Community Corrections, said the two departments work well together. They are able to share resources and skills, which helps maintain continuity when working with offenders.

He noted this consolidation was organized and implemented by the community.

“Seems to me when you try to force people into doing things cooperatively, do you really have cooperation?” Cunningham asked.

Within Marion County, Indianapolis Community Court Judge David Certo said he is less concerned about how programs are administered and more focused on having effective programs available.

He is not for or against Young’s bill, saying the General Assembly has the province to make decisions.

“I know we have to have (good) outcomes and we have to have them now,” Certo said. “If the Legislature tells us to do something and they fund it, we’ll do a bang-up job.”

Crawford conceded that fiscal constraints are necessitating changes to make sure the operations are using money efficiently and the system is handling offenders effectively. Yet, she maintained the solutions should come from the community members.

If Young’s bill was amended so that probation and community corrections were co-equals and the directors of each department would be selected in the manner they have been, Crawford thinks the community corrections advisory board in Marion County “would be more amenable to considering the bill favorably.”

Going statewide

Community corrections officials outside of Marion County believe that while this is a pilot project, consolidation, if realized, will become permanent. Despite Young’s assertion that continuing the consolidation beyond three years would require another bill, officials question whether the departments can be untangled after they are merged.

Also, community corrections proponents believe consolidations will eventually be mandated across the state. Merging programs should be left to local leaders, rather than the Statehouse applying a cookie-cutter approach, they said, because every county has different needs and services.

In Lake County, consolidating the two departments would be devastating, said Kellie Bittorf, executive director of Lake County Community Corrections. Probation and community corrections, while they do collaborate and share resources, serve two different populations of offenders and offer different services.

Bittorf credited the community corrections advisory board with the success of the program in Lake County and reiterated Watson’s concerns – that consolidation would limit the advisory board’s ability to design programs and make decisions.

In response to requests to let the communities decide how to unify probation and community corrections, Young doubted a grass-roots effort would be fruitful, pointing out that to date only a handful of Indiana’s 92 counties have consolidated. A pilot is needed, he said, to find out what works, and the Legislature should be involved in the process.

“We’re the ones that passed the law that allowed them to do this,” Young said of the legislation that established community corrections and the advisory boards. “So we have the right to look at what we created to see if there’s a better way.”•
 

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  1. Am I the only one who sees that the City is essentially giving away the MSA site AND giving millions to build new buildings on the site when this site would be the perfect place for the Justice Complex? Across from City-County, check; keeping it centrally located, check, etc. It's my understanding that the GM site must be purchased by the City from Motors Liquidation Company. STOP WASTING WHAT WE ALREADY HAVE AND OUR TAX DOLLARS! The Ballard Administration has not been known for it's common sense...never voted for him and never will!

  2. This guy sounds like the classic molester/manipulator.

  3. Louis D. Brandeis was born in 1856. At 9 years of age it would have been 1865. The Brandeis family did not own slaves. My source Louis D. Brandeis: A Life, by Melvin L. Urofsky.

  4. My name is Matthew Lucas Major, I recently went through a jury trial in Bloomington , In. It was the week of Feb 19-21. Although I have been incarcerated since August 5, 2014. The reason I 'am writing to you sir is on the 21 of February the jury came in with a very excessive and wrongful verdict of guilty on 6 child molesting charges against my daughter who was 9 at the time I was accused. I also had 2 other Felonies one of Intimidation and 1 of Sexual Vicarious Gratification. Judge Marc Kellam on the second day of trial gave me a not guilty on those 2 felonies. The jury was sent out during that time and when brought back Judge Kellam told them to not concern themselves with the 2 Felonies that he ruled on them. They were told to not let evidence they had already heard influence there verdicts. I never in my life touched any child sexually and definitely not with my own daughter. When I was arrested Detective Shawn Karr told me I would be convicted guilty just on my daughters word even without evidence. That's just what happened. my public defender did me so wrong he never once proved to the court and jury all the lies the child told, and Jeremy Noel my public defender could of proven the lies easily. The stories in Serenity's depositions and Forensic interview changed and were not consistent as Prosecutor Darcie Fawcett claimed they were. Yet my attorney never mentioned that. The facts that the child accused me of full penetration in her vagina and rectum was proven lies. Doctor Roberta Hibbard of Riley hospital in Indianapolis confirmed Serenity's hymen intact, no scars, no tearing, no signs of rape to her. Yet my attorney didn't use that knowledge . the DNA was all in my favor. I tell you I will spend my entire life in prison going through rape and beatings etc. even Judge Kellam abused his authority by telling the jurors to listen and believe what the prosecutors side in evidence like my daughters testimony. In one interview with the detectives my daughter got flustered with her mom and said on camera " I'm saying what you told me to mom"!! Yet Mr. Noel said nor did anything to even resemble a defense attorney. Judge Kellam allowed edited version of a taped conversation between the child and her mother. Also Judge Kellam allowed the Prosecutor too bring in to my case a knife found under my seat, the knife wasn't part of my case. She was allowed by my attorney and the judge to put a huge picture of it on the screen and huge picture of my naked privates in a full courtroom and open court. Ms. Fawcett says to jury see how easy Mr. Major could reach the knife and cut his Childs throat. Even though I had no weapons charge against these cases. This gave the jurors prejudice thought against me thinking I threatened her with that knife and how scared she would of been knowing i could get it and kill her. On my sentencing court March 19, 2014 my public defender told Judge Kellam he wish to resign from being my attorney and wished for the court to give me outside council to file a error to trial or appeal. We were denied. Now after openly knowing my public defender don't want to represent me he has to. Well when as parents we make our kids clean a room when they really don't wish to, well the child will but don't mean she will do a good job, that's where I'm at with Mr. Noel. please dont ignore mine and my families pleas for your help . we have all the legal proof you could need to prove Im innocent. Please dont make my spend years in prison innocent when you can fix this wrong. Im not saying Im a perfect man or that I was a perfect dad to my 2 children none of us are. Ive made some bad choices in life and I paid for them. But I didnt ever touch or rape my daughter . I love my children with all my heart. And now through needing attention and a ex-wife who told my granny several times she wish she could put me in prison to get me out of their lives. Well my ex finally accomplished her goal. Sad part is she is destroying our daughter with all this horrific lies and things she taught my daughter to say. My daughter will need therapist to ever hope for a chance of a normal life after what she had done to her by her mom and their side of the family. My daughter told everyone even on stand she had a dream months before i supposedly molested her in this dream I was molesting her and when I finally did it matched her dream perfectly. She admitted to watching movies about little girls being molested and watching U-Tube videos about child molesting all before it happened supposedly to her. Doesn't that sound very unusual that a non molested 9 yr old would need to know so much about being molested? The only reason I could think a 9 year old would need so much information is to be prepared to know what to say and be able to say how it felt what took place etc.. So when questioned by authorities she would be prepared. And there again sir if a parent is pre grooming a 9 year old child she would need intimate details . Like telling her daughter about a couple moles on my private area. The child admitted to sneaking my cell and looking many many times at nudes of me and my girlfriend even one where my penis was entering my girlfriends vagina. In that picture my moles are obvious. Yet when prosecutor showed everyone in court my privates and pictures of the moles she said the only way the child would know about them is if she saw them for herself. My attorney once again said nothing about the pictures my child saw. Or could a ex-wife be able to describe my moles to help her case against getting rid of me? I beg you help me. This is my very existence. Ive lost everything , a good job, a wonderful girlfriend, my freedom, but worse thing Ive lost is my children. They were my reason to get up every morning and strive to be better. The wonderful bond I had with my Serenity is gone. After this I would be afraid to even hug her for fear of what next can they do to me. I'm not afraid to tell you I sit here in this cell and try to hold back my tears. Everyone knows you cant show weakness in prison. My life has already been threatened here at Wabash Valley Prison. After only 3 days of arrival. I was tricked into signing a waiver now Im in G Block General Population with 6 child molesting felony charges. Mrs. Hart as a 18 year old I almost died hooked to machines in hospital almost 1 month and now I know that fear was childish compared to this . I cant help but put emotions in this, after all Mrs. Hart Im human and God help Me I never been more afraid in my life. I didnt hurt my little girl I didnt touch her sexually. As much as it shreds me and fills my mind what Im facing I worry more about my mom and granny because of their great love for me mam they are suffering so deeply. I aint done this things but my loved ones suffering right along beside me and If you take my case you will be in essence freeing them also. I sent momma this letter and asked her to email it to you. I'm scared I have been done so unjustly by our legal system and I need you to fix this and give me freedom. I ask you please don't just ignore my pleas. Here in America its nice to be able to trust our legal justice system, well they destroyed my and my loved ones trust in our justice system . And I'm trusting in You !!! My entire family is suffering this nightmare with me. My 77 year old granny had a stroke and isn't doing so well. My single mother that raised 3 kids alone is dying from Lupus and since my arrest has stayed so sick and weary. Our lives torn to peices by a government I was taught I could trust in. my momma has tried so many innocent project and wrongfully accused and cant get anywhere. please please help me. A quote from the late Nelson Mandela: To be free is not merely to cast off ones chains, But to live in a way that respects and enhances The Freedom Of Others. I have Faith in you and your clinic to cast my chains off and give me freedom I do deserve as a wrongfully accused Man, son, brother, father, friend. Matthew Major DOC# 246179 Cause # : 53c02-1308-FA-000779 God Bless you. Please contact me with your decision so I know you made a life changing decision for me , just please at least write me so I know you care enough about your citizens to respond to cries for your help. You can speak openly with my mother Charlotte Spain (828) 476-0406: 71 Lakeview Dr. Canton, NC 28716 Thank You Matthew Major I know yall get thousands of request and inmates claiming innocence, and each person who are innocent deserve to have organizations like yours willing to fight for them and I give yall so much Thanks and I thank God everyday yall are out there caring enough to help free the innocents. Since discovering firsthand how easily lives and families can be destroyed by Poor Defense attorneys not doing their job . And Prosecutors allowed to do as they please in court

  5. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

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