Community corrections department saves Ind. county $5.4 million

In addition to cutting down on jailing costs, the programs are almost entirely funded through offender user fees and grants

By Maria Flora
The Lebanon Reporter
LEBANON, Ind. — Boone County Community Corrections saved more than $5.4 million in tax money last year, despite a significant uptick in cases.

The number of pre-trial clients released to BCCC nearly doubled from 243 in 2020 to 479 in 2021, Michael Nance, BCCC executive director, told the Boone County Council and Commissioners this week.

Active home detention clients rose from 183 to 227, and felony diversion clients rose from 66 to 82 during the same period. Nance's remarks were part of his annual report to both governmental bodies.

"I just want to thank you," Boone County Councilman Don Lamb told Nance. "You do a great job, and I don't think most people understand how much is involved."

BCCC is different from probation in that probationers are not serving an executed sentence.

BCCC instead monitors offenders sentenced to serve time in the county jail or with the Indiana Department of Correction when a judge is willing to give them a chance to serve their sentence in the community. The judge may choose from a handful of programs BCCC offers.

Time served in work release or home detention counts as credit for time served. "Instead of going to prison to sit in a cell, they get to sit in their house," Nance said. "Your house is your jail." Those on home detention wear a GPS tracking device and are required to have a job and work regular hours.

Work release is served in jail, but the inmate is allowed to go to work outside of the jail. "When you leave work, you go back to the jail," Nance said. "Work release is the most restrictive program we have."

Clients, adult or juvenile, must be considered non-violent and non-threatening to the community to be considered for BCCC.

BCCC's programs combine "intensive supervision" and mental health and recovery programs as appropriate to move offenders toward "positive citizenship," the report stated. And the 10-person staff gets creative in the way they motivate clients. Many met conditions to earn two hours to spend with family at Thanksgiving, for example, Nance said. Others may earn a trip to a movie or to attend their child's soccer game.

BCCC is a "tremendous success" because it helps clients get the mental health or other support they need while also saving tax money, Tom Santelli, Boone County commissioner and BCCC liaison, said.

Boone County's community transitions program helps prison inmates transition from prison to civilian life. A court may approve an offender for early release from prison into BCCC's supervision to be served in a number of ways. The transitions program may even include a residential setting for those recovering from alcohol or chemical addiction.

BCCC in 2020 also began supervising persons charged with a crime and awaiting trial. Indiana in 2016 passed Criminal Rule 26 that allows judges to release offenders who have been charged with a crime but who cannot afford bond. Supervised release allows them to work and maintain family life while they await trail instead of sitting in jail.

BCCC checks in with pre-trial release clients to ensure they make it to trial on their appointed dates.

The county's work release program halted in March 2020 because of COVID-19. The few clients serving sentences through work release at the time were transitioned to home detention.

The Boone County Jail uses the work release dorm as a COVID-19 unit and planned to resume work release as early as spring. But that plan was put on hold when the omicron variant surged, and it's unclear when it will resume, according to Nance's report.

BCCC is almost entirely funded through offender user fees and grants, Nance said, adding, "No Boone County tax dollars pay our salaries."

The county realizes a savings because it would have cost $5,436,622 to confine those who participated in BCCC programs in 2021. Those users instead paid user fees, participated in programs and paid for their own food and shelter.

The figure for savings is reached by multiplying the number of BCCC clients, who would all have been in jail if not in the program, by the number of days they would have been incarcerated and then by the cost per day to hold them. Added to that is the cost of running BCCC, and from the total is subtracted user fees and grants.

Nance said Boone County is fortunate in having a good staff-to-client ratio. "I have some great staff members who work with me," he said. "It's not a me thing, it's a we thing.

"All but one of my staff are Boone County residents, and that's important," he said. "We want to live in a safe community, so we have the motivation to make sure our clients are doing the things they're supposed to be doing."
(c)2022 The Lebanon Reporter (Lebanon, Ind.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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