In advance of lower-risk offenders staying in local jails instead of going to state prisons, counties across Indiana have requested more than $17 million from the state.
The counties are trying to get a slice of new grant funding coming from the Indiana Department of Correction. However, for the first round of appropriations this fiscal year, the DOC only has $5 million to give.
Sixty applications came in to the DOC by the Sept. 18 deadline asking for a total of $17.4 million. Some of the applications were submitted from regional groups, so the total number of counties involved in this round is about 70.
Counties are preparing for more low- and moderate-level offenders remaining in their jails. This is part of the state’s effort to reform the criminal justice system by offering more rehabilitation and treatment programs in the home communities of the offenders.
To help the communities handle the influx of inmates, the Indiana Legislature set aside $55 million in the state budget. The funds have been divided between the DOC and the Division of Mental Health and Addiction at the Family and Social Services Administration.
The DOC presented a preliminary assessment of the grant applications during the Sept. 25 meeting of the Justice Reinvestment Advisory Council. The DOC is scheduled to make recommendations for awarding the grants at the Oct. 13 meeting. The money is expected to be given out in November.
Among the guidance the council members provided to the DOC for selecting the grant recipients, the consensus was to fully fund a few programs rather than trying to give a little money to all the counties.
Members reasoned without adequate financial support, none of the communities would be able to implement their plans. In addition, counties that are not selected this fiscal year will have the opportunity to reapply early in 2016 for a second-round of grant funding. In the second round, the DOC will have $20 million available.
In the first-round, the 10 counties requesting the most money from the DOC were:
• Marion - $2.34 million
• Allen – $1.28 million
• Northeast Regional (LaGrange and Steuben counties) - $725,195.38
• Huntington - $648,319.04
• Hamilton - $601,683.31
• Elkhart - $567,622
• Lake - $534,895.78
• Lawrence - $459,583
• St. Joseph - $457,768
• Vanderburgh - $408,260
According to the DOC, an overwhelming majority of the grant requests were to expand existing programs by covering the costs of additional staffing or program materials. Also, a majority of the applications were asking for support for collaborative projects between the local community corrections and probation departments.
Some applications wanted the grant monies to put toward raises for current personnel or to cover probation fees for indigent offenders.
To award the grant money, council members noted several areas to consider. They stressed the need for the plans to be collaborative and include sectors like problem-solving courts along with community corrections and probation.
Also, the council discussed the award process should consider the number of lower-level offenders that will be staying in each county. David Powell, executive director of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, pointed out that counties which have been sending many inmates to the DOC could now get a large number of felons dumped in their laps for whom they will have to provide services.
While the DOC is distributing its funds through a grant program, the Division of Mental Health and Addiction is establishing a voucher program. Offenders will be sent for evaluation and treatment by private providers who will then apply for voucher funds to cover the costs.
The voucher program, dubbed Recovery Works, will give out $10 million this fiscal year and $20 million next fiscal year.