Corrections program growth seen

    Adams County's Community Corrections program is destined for growth so Councilman Matt Dyer said at this week's city council meeting that city department heads and others should come up with projects for those in the program to handle.
    Criminal offenders who enter the Community Corrections program are assigned to perform community service at various sheriff’s departments, parks, city or county properties or non-profit agencies. They receive earned credit time but no pay.
    The local Community Corrections board, of which Dyer is a member, recently approved the purchase of a large van, which program Director Ian Gilbert said is now being sought. It will be used to transport program participants to various work sites.
    In addition, Gilbert said Sheriff Shane Rekeweg is assigning someone from his department to help oversee individuals at a work site.
    Due to new sentencing guidelines due to take effect in Indiana this July, the local program is likely to be taking on even more offenders in the future.
    With all those factors in mind, Dyer said at the council meeting that he wanted to encourage city department heads to come up with projects, providing community service for the offenders and at the same time saving the city some money.
    Storm Water Superintendent Joan Eichhorn asked about liability. City Attorney Tim Baker explained that people who do their community service at the transfer station sign what amounts to a release, saying they accept any risks. "It is something we would have to look into, though," he added.
    Gilbert said this week that the program has some 25 participants at this time. "That's a little low; we usually run from the mid 20s to low 40s," he explained.
    And "yes, we're looking for projects to serve the community," he added.
    Dyer said the Community Corrections program is destined to see nothing but growth as an alternative to jail sentences, and as the State of Indiana accepts fewer criminals for its prisons.
    "We're prepared to handle a lot more, possibly triple (as many)," Gilbert said. "We'd be short on staffing, but we'll figure something out."
    In his State of the Judiciary address earlier this week, Circuit Court Judge Fred Schurger had high praise for the program which was launched here three years ago.
    "I view it as a continuum of services for criminal offenders and persons on bond for alleged offenses. Community Corrections can be tailor-made to fit the offender's need, at least as perceived by the courts, both to protect the community and to rehabilitate, at a lower cost to the county and state and often to the benefit of the offender's family," the judge said.