Ind. county receives grant for staffing from DOC

Overall, the county will receive $124,422 from IDOC, with $65,000 going to adult probation, and $51,000 to Community Corrections

By George Myers
Kokomo Tribune

KOKOMO, Ind. — The Howard County Commissioners approved a grant Monday from the Indiana Department of Correction that will increase staffing in Community Corrections and adult probation.

Overall, the county will receive $124,422 from IDOC, with $65,000 going to adult probation, and $51,000 to Community Corrections. 

The remaining $8,422 will be granted as a bonus to Community Corrections for reaching performance goals instituted by the IDOC.

Community Corrections will use the larger sum to hire an additional case manager and a part-time field officer, while adult probation will hire another full-time probation officer, according to Community Corrections Director Ray Tetrault. 

“The case manager does classes, individual counseling and groups that are in-home [detention], while the field officer will go to homes and check and see what is going on in the house,” he explained. 

Tetrault went on to credit Indiana’s new sentencing guidelines for the much-needed staffing increase.

With House Enrolled Act 1006’s new criminal code reform, which took effect last July, anyone with a sentence of less than two years cannot be sent to the Department of Correction and instead will be rerouted to county jails and community corrections programs.

“We used to run about 120 or 130 with in-home detention, and now we do about 200,” he said. “It’s like anything, if you’ve got so much going on that you think you can’t keep up, you don’t do quality work.

“This will enable us to give better focus and treatment to people in re-entry, and more intensive treatment to people in in-home.”

Tetrault estimated that case loads for individual Community Corrections employees could be reduced from roughly 80 to somewhere between 50 and 60. 

Howard County Chief Adult Probation Officer Dustin Delong expressed many of the same concerns, saying the hiring of a new probation officer helps adult probation handle an influx of clients. 

“With the new criminal code, we are seeing more misdemeanors and level six felonies that are higher risk, so we needed to deal with that circumstance,” he said. “We are helping more people in the community instead of sending them to the Department of Correction, so we are trying to be able to help as many as possible.”

Concerns related to understaffing aren’t new, added DeLong, and the grant funding could present adult probation with an opportunity to make gains in the community.

Delong hopes the biggest gains can be made by narrowing the focus of each probation officer. 

“The probation department has been understaffed for a few years, and we are trying to become more involved in the community and our clients’ lives…What ended up happening was we were running out of time,” he said.

“It takes a significant amount of time with a person to make progress, and an officer with 100 clients didn’t have time to address needs properly. Now, we are trying to address the needs of clients with more staff by having fewer clients per officer.”

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