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County taking on state work-release prisoners


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Bartholomew County will receive nearly $10,000 a month by housing nonviolent offenders currently being held in the state’s penal system. That’s due to a work-release agreement with the Indiana Department of Correction.

“We believe they will be nonviolent,” said Rob Gaskill, director of residential services for the Bartholomew County Community Corrections Center. “However, people are put in jail for a reason.”

The agreement approved this month by county commissioners calls for five to 10 eligible prisoners from the state to be housed in Columbus at any given time.

However, they must originally come from Bartholomew or an adjacent county.

Another provision gives the county the right to refuse a work-release participant they find objectionable.

Before the agreement, Bartholomew County had no agreement with the DOC to house prisoners. In effect, nonviolent offenders from the Columbus area were often sent to faraway counties to secure jobs.

Freed prisoners were often faced with the choice of either keeping their job or returning to their hometowns as unemployed ex-convicts, Gaskill said.

“The idea (of this program) is that they’ll be looking for jobs here to integrate their way into their own community, help fund themselves in the program and have something to do when they are released,” Bartholomew County Attorney Grant Tucker said.

Commissioners chairman Larry Kleinhenz acknowledged there might be some public apprehension about the new program.

“You do have concerns when they say they will bring in inmates,” he said. “We’re not looking to import criminals.”

But Gaskill said such nonviolent offenders are likely going to return here one way or the other. He said all parties would be best served if a prisoner had a job in his own community upon being released.

From the county’s perspective, Tucker said the most appealing part of the agreement is additional money it will bring to help defray costs in local community corrections

programs.

The county will be compensated by the DOC at a rate of $25 a day per inmate. In addition, Indiana statute requires the county to hold back 40 percent of each participant’s

salary.

While the DOC receives 10 percent of the withheld funds, the rest is placed in an account used to reimburse the county for its expenses related to the work-release participant.

“We have the space in our work-release program and won’t have to hire any additional personnel,” Gaskill said.

Tucker said his only objection dealt with the responsibility of medical-related expenses for work-release participants. The county attorney said his concern already has been addressed to his satisfaction by the DOC.

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