The Herald Bulletin

September 17, 2013

Lack of funding stalls women's work-release program this year

While state grant is pending, officials will request county appropriation

By Stuart Hirsch
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. —

Madison County officials, who hoped to have a work-release program option available for women inmates in place this fall, have now set their sights on 2014.

County Administrator Dan Dykes said he and others may have been overly optimistic in an earlier assessment that the program would be in operation by this fall. The need still exists, however.

"This would be another alternative for our judicial system," Dykes said. "We need a women's work-release program and we've needed one for quite a few years."

Part of the delay is a lack of money.

"Right now, we have no funding," said Ann Roberts, executive director of the Community Justice Center here. "We are on hold until we find funding."

She said the Justice Center applied for a $390,000 Community Correction Grant administered through the Indiana Department of Correction, shortly after the Board of County Commissioners approved moving forward with the project in February.

But there's been no word from state officials about the status of that grant application.

"We thought we would know something by July 1, because that's the beginning of the state's fiscal year," Roberts added.

Department of Correction spokesman Doug Garrison said Wednesday that the department has not yet made a decision about the county's supplemental request for funds.

"It is still under review along with similar requests from other counties," he said.

While waiting for an answer from the state, Dykes said officials have prepared a funding request for a 24-bed center for the County Council to consider for the fiscal 2014 budget.

The county will ask for an appropriation of $397,843 to operate the center, and $44,500 in one-time equipment costs. The council is expected to begin budget deliberations Sept. 30.

If a state grant is eventually approved, that would reduce the amount of local money needed to finance the project, Dykes said. As is the case in the men's program, women offenders would be expected to pay a weekly fee for their housing, he added.

The women's work-release program was first proposed as part of a several element plan to relieve critical overcrowding at the Madison County Jail earlier this year.

It would be a sentencing alternative for nonviolent women offenders that's been available to men for years.

Twice before — in the late 1990s and again in the early 2000s — the county tried to create a women's program, but there weren't enough referrals from the courts, or enough women offenders to support the program.

Earlier this summer, however, Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings endorsed the program considering the rising number of female inmates.

Madison Circuit Court 4 Judge David Happe also said a women's work-release program is a good idea, noting that work release is a less expensive option than prison or jail housing. 

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