A recommendation to sprinkle $5 million in new state funding across nearly half of Indiana's counties has been unanimously approved by the Justice Reinvestment Advisory Council, paving the way to expand treatment and rehabilitation programs to help low-level offenders.
The council greenlighted the recommendations, made by the Indiana Department of Correction, at its meeting Tuesday. JRAC members from Grant and Monroe counties abstained from voting since their respective counties are expected to receive some of the funding.
With the consent from the council, the proposal will now go to DOC Commissioner Bruce Lemmon for final approval, which could come as early as Oct. 26. The DOC is hoping to start distributing the funds Nov. 2.
The money is part of a $55 million appropriation made by the Indiana General Assembly to the Department of Correction and the Family and Social Services Administration’s Division of Mental Health and Addiction. Seen as a key component to the state’s criminal code reform, the funds are intended to help communities beef up services and programs for the low-risk offenders who will stay in their local communities instead being sent to state prison.
David Powell, executive director of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, approved the recommendation even though he previously pushed for the DOC to fully fund a few requests rather than giving partial funding to many programs. He supports the proposal because much of the money is going to hiring new personnel to handle the increased caseloads.
The money is considered vital to enabling communities to provide more monitoring and supervision of the Level 6 offenders who will serve their sentences in the counties. House Enrolled Act 1006 calls for these inmates to be diverted from the DOC to the local communities starting Jan 1.
Larry Landis, executive director of the Indiana Public Defender Council, pointed to Marion County as an example, saying the local jail is nearly filled to capacity with pretrial detainees.
“(The Level 6 offenders are) going to have to be in community corrections or probation,” Landis said. “They’re going to need supervision, monitoring and that’s why this money that is going to the county is critical.”
The recommendation would make Marion County the largest recipient of the DOC money, getting $1.1 million. The money would be targeted for the county’s community corrections department to support work release and home detention programs as well as to implement new technology to monitor the individuals in these programs.
A little over 40 counties are getting funding. The counties being recommended to receive the largest grant amounts are:
• Wabash County - $228,800 for expansion of probation services and starting a re-entry court;
• St. Joseph County - $189,000 for expansion of work release and educational services;
• Allen County - $184,400 for expansion of home detention program and existing services in probation;
• Lawrence County - $180,500 for the continuation of problem solving, domestic violence, and alcohol and drug courts;
• Grant County - $171,500 for expansion of probation services; and
• Lake County - $159,500 for expansion of work release.
Three of Indiana’s most populous counties – Elkhart, Hendricks and Vanderburgh – are not on the funding recommendation list.
The DOC developed a scoring system to rank the 60 applications it received which requested a total of $17.4 million in funding. The department considered the level of collaboration between local agencies and how the money was going to be used.
In addition to the DOC money, the Legislature also appropriated funds to Family and Social Services Administration’s Division of Mental Health and Addiction. The division used the $10 million it was given in this first round to create a voucher program, Recovery Works, which will pay for mental health and addiction services for offenders.
Landis said the vouchers will give the “biggest bang for your buck.”
Next year, both the DOC and the DMHA will see their funding levels will increase to $20 million.
The total two-year appropriation will help communities get started in handling the flow of low-risk offenders, Landis said.
“When you take those two pots (of money) together, I think it will make a difference on what kind of services are available in the counties,” he said. “And it will give us a basis for going back to the Legislature to say, here’s how the money’s being used, here’s the impact we think it’s having and will have, and here’s how much we recommend you invest for the next biennium.”