Central Indiana county seeks to develop work release program

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Officials in a central Indiana county are seeking to develop a community work release program that would keep the jail from becoming overcrowded and could save taxpayers the expense of having to expand or eventually build a new jail.

Officials in Howard County, about 50 miles north of Indianapolis, say a work release facility also would give judges another alternative in sentencing low-level offenders. The future of the effort depends on funding, Ray Tetrault, director of Howard County Community Corrections, told the Kokomo Tribune.

Howard County Sheriff Steve Rogers said a community work release program is vital because average inmate counts have been increasing. The average daily population was 342 in 2014, according to the 2014 annual jail report. The jail, which was built in 1992, originally had a capacity of 256 inmates. A 2012-13 construction project helped free up space and increased the capacity to 364 inmates, the report states.

Sentencing reform in the state means those sentenced to less than a year will serve their time in the community.

Unlike the inmate work crews who are in jail and go out into the community to do jobs like mowing and picking up trash, work release inmates have jobs and go to work during the day and are incarcerated at night.

"Work release is more restrictive than in-home detention and the courts want that option, which helps keep control of jail population better," Rogers said.

Talks of developing a work release program have been ongoing for several years. Tetrault said his department looked into using the former Howard County jail, but a study found it would be too costly to use the facility located just north of the current jail.

Howard County Commissioner Paul Wyman believes the program is needed to help reduce the jail population.

"The work release is for low-level offenders who have jobs," said Wyman. "This way, they maintain employment and bring in money for the families and are fulfilling their sentence."

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