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Jackson County Addresses Overcrowding At Jail
Updated February 26, 2015 1:09 PM | Filed under: Crime
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(BROWNSTOWN) - A Work Release Center is gaining local support in Jackson County to help decrease the overcrowding at the jail in Brownstown.

Whitney Riggs of the Seymour Tribune reports that the proposal is to allow low-level felons to work instead of serve time.

Under the proposal, inmates normally sentenced to serve time in the county jail would stay in a jail-like facility but be allowed to leave and go to work each day.

Several of those officials have said in the past they believe criminal code revisions enacted by the state legislature in recent years will lead to more offenders staying in the county jail, which has 172 beds.

Starting July 1, a change in state law will require offenders convicted of Class D felonies and sentenced to one year or less to be housed in county jails or through a county detention program instead of state prison.

Jackson County Councilman Charlie Murphy says lawmakers also are considering lengthening that to a year and a half or even two years.

Director of the Jackson Jennings Community Corrections Program J.L. Brewer, who is proposing the idea, said that, instead of sitting idle in jail, inmates would pay a daily fee to live and work out of the center. This is not the first time he has proposed a work center.

Murphy, who also is the jail commander and is a member of the committee, which is looking at other justice-system issues including the possibility of establishing a public defender's office.

The proposal is based on one used at the Dubois County's jail. Dubois County, with 42,361 people, has about the same population as Jackson County (43,466).

A center in Jackson County combining the work release and home detention programs would cost about $1.2 million to operate annually. Offenders would pay a fee to be in the programs, which are administered by community corrections. The state provides the county with money to help operate the community corrections program.

Brewer's estimate does not include the cost of a building to house a 50-bed facility for both men and women, who would be kept separate.

He estimated a new building would cost somewhere $1.6 million to $1.9 million. The possibility of using an existing building also was discussed.

Brewer says the center should be in Seymour because that's where the most jobs are available. Many who would use the program probably won't have licenses and would have to either walk or drive a scooter.

The fee for an inmate would be $15 to $20 a day. Staff would include two workers around the clock, and case workers could be shared with home detention, Brewer said. He said the center has the potential to be self-supporting as quickly as two years after it opens.

Inmates would pay for any other basic needs including food, toiletries and clothing.

Sheriff Michael Carothers said it costs a little more than $40 a day to house an inmate at the jail, and he said currently about 52 could benefit from the work release program.

He also says the cost of expanding the jail is an estimated $8 million.

Jackson Circuit Judge Rick Poynter who is also on the board likes the plan because right now he has two choices for low-level felony cases: jail or home detention.

The program would offer him another option, particularly for nonviolent offender cases such as those involving nonpayment of child support, drunken drivers, habitual traffic violators and possibly some drug offenders.

The program would be optional for inmates and there would be case workers to help them find jobs - but if they get into trouble they will go back to jail.

Jackson Superior Court II Judge Bruce MacTavish says there are companies out there looking for workers who will show up every day, on time and ready to work.

Brian Thompson, county council member likes the idea of prisoners waking up each day for a reason and possibly helping a few of them to get on the right path before they are released back into society.

The committee, which also plans to review the benefits and disadvantages of creating a drug court here, plans to meet again at 4:30 p.m. March 12 at Jackson Superior Court II in Brownstown.



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