Work release transition smooth: officials
CROWN POINT — Transition of the 51 Lake County Work Release inmates to Lake County Community Corrections went smoothly, officials said.
Kellie Bittorf, executive director of Lake County Community Corrections, told the Board of Commissioners on Wednesday the 17 employed offenders were able to leave for work Monday morning without any disruption. The Sheriff’s Department also provided a seven-day supply of medication for the 29 inmates who need it.
With the switchover, Community Corrections now oversees 377 offenders, 237 of whom reside at the facility, with the remainder on monitoring bracelets.
“We moved them into our wing and closed down the other wing,” Bittorf said.
The Lake County Work Release and Lake County Community Corrections had shared a building, each with its own residential wing for offenders. Bittorf said the former work release wing has been closed down temporarily for cleaning and to be connected to the Community Corrections security system.
Bittorf said she is hopeful, now that the transition is complete, that the various entities including the Lake County Jail and home monitoring service will be able to move forward.
“We have to work together,” she said.
Lake County Commissioner Gerry Scheub, D-Crown Point, said the transition does not eliminate work release. Community Corrections Kimbrough Work Release will still be operational and able to take inmates who qualify. The program will take both misdemeanant and felony offenders.
“Work Release will still be going out in the community. We did not take that away,” Scheub said.
Community Corrections is funded by the state but it is a department of the county government. Bittorf said the department operates under the combined authority of the Board of Commissioners, the Lake County Community Corrections Advisory Board and the Indiana Department of Corrections.
“Our primary funding is the state,” Bittorf said, but the department receives funding from a variety of other sources including federal and local grants. The county provides the building as an in-kind resource.
Bittorf said the $2.8 million in funding Community Corrections receives from IDOC must be used for felony offenders. The program will be able to use its other funds from federal and local grants and the fees the program collects to pay for the misdemeanant program. Offenders in the program pay a fee of $15 per day or 25 percent of their gross pay, whichever is greater, to participate.
Community corrections also will continue to provide community service workers. Bittorf said the program already works with more than 10 agencies to provide free labor including Another Chance Outreach, Living Hope, Safety Village, Goodwill, the Salvation Army, Gary School Corp., Gary General Services, The Exodus Project, Oak Hill Cemetery and various county government departments.
She said that additional partnerships with other cities and towns and not-for-profit entities would be welcome.
“It’s important to remember the county saved $2.2 million and will every year from now on,” Scheub said.