Although state prison officials say a massive sentencing reform law that was supposed to save taxpayer money is actually costing more, Daviess County officials feel strongly the local community is doing its part in keeping low-level offenders close to home and costs minimal.
Diana Snyder, director of the Community Corrections program in Daviess County, says that although her department hasn’t seen any of the extra dollars the prison reform was supposed to generate, it has been awarded performance bonus money three years in a row.
“That’s because we don’t send offenders to the state. We already service our offenders locally first,” she said.
Last year, only five felons with either Class D felonies, or the new Level 6, were sent to the Indiana Department of Corrections, and in 2014, only two were sent.
“We were the lowest in the state last year,” she said.
Snyder, who has been doing corrections work for 30 years, is passionate about her job of helping clients.
“We always try to do what we can locally to keep the family dynamics....to keep the individual employed if at all possible, instead of sending a person to prison where they may become worse, and not always better,” she said.
And because it does keep most offenders locally, Daviess County has been rewarded. But other counties are still struggling with a high number of felons (like Marion County) and to get better programs in place. Those counties were supposed to see dollars in the savings generated from prison reform, and that hasn’t happened yet.
Snyder’s opinion is that it is still too early to see if the new statewide reform is going to be helpful.
“It’s still too new yet to see where this is going to take us. It’s going to take a little longer to see if there is going to be any savings,” she said.
In the meantime, Daviess County has an almost model program for Community Corrections, although Snyder has a vision to make it even better.
Currently, there are 52 beds available for prisoners on work release, and the average number of inmates staying overnight at the jail in work release is 40, according to Daviess County Sheriff Jerry Harbstreit. Prisoners on work release pay for their own keep, paying $13 a day to cover housing and food costs. Generally, those prisoners get one meal at the county jail.
“They can go to work, and still get drug or alcohol treatment,” Snyder said.
For work release, Harbstreit said, “We do the manpower side of it, and they (Community Corrections) do the paperwork and decision making.”
As for the new prison reform law, “We kept our low-level offenders here in the first place,” he said.
Community Corrections also provides services for home detainees and those working community service hours. As of this week, 36 adults in Daviess County were on home detention, and 130 were performing community service work. There are 22 juveniles in the program, either doing community service or on house arrest. Those on house arrest also pay for the monitoring service at a rate of $10 a day.
Snyder’s vision for the future would be to have even more programming for the clients her department serves, with behavior therapy, anger management, and job ethics. To help fund additional programs, the local Community Corrections Board has applied for a grant from the Justice Reinvestment Advisory Committee. The JRAC group was created by the prison reform law to help distribute the anticipated savings.
But the local board won’t know until later this year if it qualifies for any of the grant monies.
Synder’s dream is to “break that cycle” for her clientele.
“Some have never held a job, don’t know how to maintain a job, do a resume or present themselves,” she said. “We want to work to make them more employable so that we have the workforce needed here in our community.
Sometimes we never see them again (in the system), but sometimes we see families. We’d like to stop the revolving door that we sometimes see,” she said.
5,000 fewer state inmates - a 17 percent drop - since the reform law went into effect in July 2014.
$60 million - money set aside by Legislature to offset initial costs.
3 - years in a row that Daviess County has been rewarded by the DOC for keeping its prisoners locally.
5 - Low-level felons sent to the DOC from Daviess County last year.
2 - Low-level felons sent to the DOC from Daviess County in 2014.
52 - Work-release beds available in Daviess County.
$13 - What a work release prisoner pays per day in Daviess County.
$10 - What a home detainee pays Daviess County per day.
36 - Number of adults currently on home detention in Daviess County.
130 - Number currently performing community service in Daviess County.
22 - Number of juveniles in the local Community Corrections progam.