County to get more money for inmates

Starting next year, more than $52 million will come to programs statewide that provide work release, home detention, community service and educational programs for people convicted of low-level crimes.

Legislators set aside more than $115 million during a two-year period for local community corrections programs, which could help pay for needed space and other services. State officials changed which crimes were eligible for a prison sentence, and now people convicted of lower-level felonies will stay in county jails or be placed in community corrections programs.

The new law could move 150 inmates from state prisons to the Johnson County jail and community corrections program, officials estimated.

But neither has the space to fit additional inmates in current buildings. Both the jail and community corrections program are between 60 and 92 percent capacity on a daily basis, depending on the time of the year, officials said.

Last month, Johnson Memorial Hospital donated 1.8 acres of land for the community corrections program to construct a new building, which could cost $4 million to $5 million. And officials said they are unsure how the new facility would be paid for.

This year, because of the additional offenders coming to the county jails and community corrections programs, the state set aside $52.3 million for the 2015-16 fiscal year, and another $63.4 million can be given out during fiscal year 2016-17.

With 92 counties fighting for that money, no one knows how much each program will get, Johnson County community corrections director Albert Hessman said. It is still undecided how the money will be disbursed and on what the money can be spent, he said.

“It’s unfolding as we speak, and no one has absolute answers,” Hessman said.

The county does not fund the community corrections program. Instead, the program depends on money from fees offenders pay and the Indiana Department of Correction. Typically, the Johnson County community corrections program receives a little more than $200,000 per year from the state, but Hessman said he expects a slight increase this year in the new state budget.

Hessman said he would be thrilled if Johnson County receives an additional $100,000. The community corrections advisory board will determine how any additional money is spent, he said.

Hessman said he doesn’t know how the extra dollars will be spent. But he does not think the money will be enough to cover building a new facility, he said.

He said he does not know if there are any restrictions on how the money from the state can be used, including whether it can be used to pay for construction of a new facility.

A new facility will take at least a year or two to finish, so the community corrections program still needs to find a solution to overcrowding now. For example, Hessman said he wanted at least 25 additional beds for female offenders. Right now, only 10 beds are set aside for women, and typically nine of those beds are full on a daily basis, he said. Hessman wants at least 50 more beds for offenders until a new facility can be built, he said.

By the numbers

County community corrections programs will receive more money from the state, but it’s still being decided how much each county’s program will get. Here’s how much money will be set aside for the community corrections programs:

2015-16 fiscal year: $52.3 million

2016-17 fiscal year: $63.4 million