More security needed at community correction
Posted: 09/12/2012 at 1:15 am
By: Angelle Barbazon
Elkhart County Community Corrections was in the spotlight a week ago when two men escaped from the work release program. The two inmates left their ward without notice early last Wednesday but were back in custody by that same evening.
“To say we’re doing more with less is pretty much an understatement at this point,” said Tara Boocher-Whaley, community corrections executive director. “One thing I’m trying to do is get more officers on the floor. We need more officers.”
Community corrections has not added staff since 1999, but Boocher-Whaley hopes that changes next year.
“I invite any of you to come in to our facility about 8 p.m. in the evening when everyone is in the facility,” Boocher-Whaley told the Elkhart County Council on Tuesday. “Walk to the back counter, and you’ll see one officer back there and over 200 men, so that ratio is not very good. It could go drastically wrong, and chances are that officer is probably not going to make it out of there in good shape or at all. Security is an issue at our facility.”
The county’s general budget supported 10 jobs with benefits in the department for 2012. Boocher-Whaley has proposed shifting her budget around for 2013 by cutting spending on office supplies and adding $12,000 to the department’s spending plan for staff.
The community corrections facility has 327 beds but supervises an average of 600 people daily through other programs, a figure that surprised council vice president Dennis Sharkey.
“I can remember 12 years ago when I first started here, there was less than 100 in work release,” Sharkey said. “There was no such thing as electronic monitoring, so we went from less than 100 to now we have 600. That’s a pretty good size increase.”
Sheriff Brad Rogers noted that the jail would be overcrowded if it wasn’t for the work release program.
Community corrections updated its security system last year with real time video and audio recording. Because the population at the work release program has grown, Boocher-Whaley said more security is needed at the facility’s front entrance
“You would be shocked to see how these offenders are acting and what we’re having to do with them,” she said.
The Elkhart County Council will hold work sessions this week to discuss the county’s 2013 budget, including the request from community corrections. The council is expected to approve the spending plan Sept. 28.