By Mike Grant Times Herald
The Washington Times-Herald
---- — Whether it is across the country or across town, most people can identify with the notion that moving is a pain. For the Daviess County Community Corrections staff the moving might be called a growing pain. Staff members have been packing for a week and now are out of the offices in the Daviess County jail and into a new home seven blocks down the street at 415 West Walnut St. in Washington.
“When we started 30 years ago we were in with the probation office in the courthouse, and then we outgrew that space and moved to the jail, and now we have grown to the point where we need our own space,” said Community Corrections Executive Director Diana Snider, as she sat among the boxes and equipment waiting to be assembled at the new office.
The move for the office was a major undertaking and while it has gone smoothly it has also had challenges. “We had a road crew from the jail come in and help with some of the move and some of the community service people,” said Snider. “We moved most of the stuff in the rain on Thursday. All of our cars were loaded and I don’t know how many truck loads we had. The bulk of the stuff is here now. It’s just a matter of putting it away.”
Community Corrections has seen a lot of growth in both demand for its service and in the number of people involved in the work release and home detention programs. “We started with two full-time and two part-time employees,” she said. “Now we have six full-time and three part-time people. We are also serving a much different population than we did in the beginning.”
As prisons and jails around the state have filled up, state and local officials have increasing turned to alternative sentencing as a way to keep them from overcrowding. Daviess County has one of the lowest rates in the state in sending people into the prison system. “It used to be that when someone got in trouble they either wound up on probation or being sent off to jail,” said Snider. “We provide a service in-between those extremes for people who really are not a threat to the community. We are an extra alternative and our judges and prosecutor have made use of it.”
That expansion though left Community Corrections seriously short on space. “We’re here to help people change,” said Snider. “We didn’t have any place to work one on one with our clients and we need to do that. There are additional programs we wanted to offer, but just didn’t have the space to do that.”
The new office did not just happen. Community Corrections had a study done to see how they were complying with their Department of Corrections grant. That led to the county advisory board giving approval a year ago to start a search for a new facility. “We looked at several properties, but I kept driving by the old clinic and finally we began checking into it,” said Snider.
The building was owned by the Daviess Community Hospital and had been vacant for several years. After some months of negotiations, Community Corrections made a deal to purchase the building for $34,000. “We utilized user fees to pay for the building,” said Snider. “We finalized the purchase on Sept. 1, and then we began doing some upgrades to get ready to move. The good thing is that since this had been a medical facility there was already some security built in. The I.T. Department added some cameras and the building was already ADA ready.”
The office staff for the Work Release Program also moved into the new facility, even though the program participants will still be at the jail. “The separation of the staff from the jail should not be a big issue,” said Snider. “With electronics we should be able to continue to communicate with the jail officers.”
“The book-in officers handle the people who check in and out,” said Yvette Arney with the Work Release Program. “The office staff re-location shouldn’t make a difference.”
The new facility will give all of the Community Corrections staff their own space and will meet the needs for now. “Just by being here it will give us a chance to expand our programs and take some of those we have been doing off-site and bring them into our new location,” said Snider. “Once we get settled we are going to take a year and evaluate how things are going. We may need to expand here in the future. The advisory board will make that decision.”
With Community Correction moving out the county jail now has some empty offices, but they may not be empty for long. Daviess County officials say they are always looking for usable space and Sheriff Jerry Harbstreit is starting to look at the area. “I know we have some people who are pretty cramped up,” he said. “I will be looking at the space as somewhere to put our folks.”
For now the Community Corrections staff is busy putting the pieces back together again after the big move. “It’s a mess now and it is going to be that way for awhile,” said Snider. “We threw away piles of stuff. It has been a lot more involved than we expected it would be, but we plan to be back in business on Monday and will have an open house later in the month. We are just so excited. After 30 years, we now have a place of our own.”