Madison County officials hope to begin operating a women’s work-release program by summer’s end to provide women offenders with a new sentencing option and help reduce jail overcrowding.

“It’s a good move for the county,” said County Council President John Bostic, D-District 3. “Now, we’ve got a place to send the women for work-release to give them more support.”

Bostic’s comments came after the County Council voted 5-0 on Thursday to purchase two buildings at the Juvenile Justice Center campus on Mounds Road for $126,000 to serve as the new facility.

Councilmen David McCartney, R-District 1 and Buddy Patterson, D-District 2, did not attend the meeting.

“This is a small step in getting this entire jail situation under control, said Councilwoman Lisa Phillips, R-At Large. “Some of the women actually housed at the jail right now could go to this new facility and free up space.”

The Madison County Sheriff’s Department began housing inmates in Blackford, Jay and Miami counties in September because of overcrowding, at a monthly cost of $90,000 to $110,000.

In January, the council approved spending $30,500 to expand the Community Justice Center by 23 beds to help address the problem, and hiring additional deputy prosecutors. The justice center houses nonviolent misdemeanor offenders.

Although tried unsuccessfully twice before — in the late 1990s and again in the early 2000s — officials revived plans to create a women’s work-release program earlier this year as part of a plan to relieve overcrowding.

A successful work-release program for men has existed for years. But the only sentencing options available for women have been home detention and the Indiana Department of Corrections.

With the number of female offenders rising dramatically, however, county officials said they were ready to give creating a women’s program another try.

The cooperative efforts of law enforcement, the county judiciary, and elected leaders appears to be paying off, said members of the council.

On Thursday, only seven offenders — all of them women — were being held at jails outside the county, officials said.

Find Stu Hirsch on Facebook and @StuHirsch on Twitter, or call 640-4861.

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