Porter-Stark gets inmate addictions program contract at county jail
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent April 3, 2014 12:05AM
Updated: April 4, 2014 7:44PM
VALPARAISO — Funding of a chemical dependency and addictions program for inmates at the Porter County Jail continues to be a challenge after a change in how the fee that supports the program is collected.
The Porter County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved a contract with Porter-Starke Services Inc., of Valparaiso for the program, at a cost of $11,333 a month.
A $25 assessment fee for suspects when they were booked into the jail had supported that program, but the State Board of Accounts said the fee couldn’t be collected prior to conviction. Suspects could get a refund if charges were dropped or they were found not guilty.
About two years ago, that fee started to be assessed and collected through the courts upon conviction. While revenue from the fee was $14,000 a month in January 2012 before the switch, it dropped to a little over $4,000 in January 2014, Porter County Sheriff David Lain said.
The program reduces the recidivism rate from 67 percent to about 49 percent for the inmates who participate, Lain has said.
“It’s too important of a program for us to risk losing,” he said.
The county’s judges are supportive in assessing the fee despite the additional burden it places on their staffs, Lain said, and he is working with them to determine why the amount collected from the fee has dwindled.
Though fewer people are paying the fee, that doesn’t make up for the revenue loss.
“Just that change wouldn’t be enough to account for this severe of a decline,” Lain said. “Neither the judges nor I have been able to account for the drastic change.”
In the meantime, Lain is turning to other funds within his budget to shore up the difference, including the civil fee fund, which is generated through foreclosures, among other activities.
“We’ve been fortunate that’s been a sufficient stream to cull from to make up the difference, but as the economy improves, that will diminish,” he said.