The Herald Bulletin

February 13, 2013

County officials again consider women’s work-release center

Resolution allows search for location

By Stuart Hirsch
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — With the number of female offenders rising dramatically, Madison county officials say they’re ready to give creating a women’s work-release program another try.

The County Council Tuesday night unanimously approved a resolution to “investigate and appraise property,” for a women’s center.

The goal is twofold, officials said:

u Provide women with a sentencing alternative for non-violent offenders that’s been available to men for years

u Help relieve the growing problem of overcrowding at the Madison County Jail.

The only sentencing options currently available for women are home detention and the Indiana Department of Corrections, said Ann Roberts, executive director of the Community Justice Center.

Twice before — in the late 1990s and again in the early 2000s — the county tried to create a viable programs, she said.

Both efforts failed for a variety of reasons.

There weren’t enough referrals from the courts, or enough women offenders to support the program.

In addition, Board of County Commissioners President John Richwine, R-North District, said the women’s centers proved more costly than the men’s.

The county’s share of the men’s program costs currently is $16 per offender per day. The offenders pay $95 per week for housing.

Any new women’s work release program must approach those figures, Richwine said.

“This needs to be cost effective,” he said. “We’re not looking at this as just another place to house inmates regardless of cost.”

Richwine and other county officials think the county has reached a tipping point which makes the prospect of success more likely this time around — a dramatic increase in the number of women arrested and convicted of crimes.

There are currently 74 women housed in six cell blocks at the jail. Ten women are currently being housed in Miami County because of overcrowding, said Sheriff Ron Richardson.

The county is currently spending about $90,000 per month to house inmates in other counties, he added.

Roberts believes Madison County could support a 50-bed work release center for women.

Last month, the council approved a plan she proposed that would add 23 beds at the Community Justice Center, which houses nonviolent misdemeanor offenders. Unspent state money the county receives is being used to pay for the expansion.

In other action Tuesday, the council approved a resolution that will allow consideration and planning for regional vote centers to move forward.

These are polling sites where any eligible county voter may cast an election ballot, which gives voters more convenience and flexibility on Election Day.

The first public hearing on the concept will be at the Madison County Government Center on Feb. 20, at 2 p.m. in the commissioners’ hearing room.