Marshall County Prosecutor Nelson Chipman recently released figures showing that his office is not only utilizing alternative sentencing to resolve low risk, non-violent felony offenses, but in doing so is preserving County Jail space for those defendants who pose a significant risk to public safety.
Marshall County Community Corrections Director Ward Byers released figures showing the average daily population in Community Corrections is 132 clients a difference of only 42 from the County Jail.
The majority of the Community Corrections population are Level 6 Felony Offenders, this is a strong indicator that the 2014 changes to Indiana Criminal Code are working as the low risk, non-violent Felony Offenders have been and continue to be sentenced to Community Corrections and not being incarcerated.
In 2017, the Marshall County Prosecutor’s Office was one of the first in the state to devote a full-time employee to manage felony diversion cases. Funding for the position is a portion of the annual Indiana Department of Corrections grant Marshall County receives through Marshall County Community Corrections. It is crucial that counties can rely upon the state’s commitment to help fund the many functions of the criminal justice system that are performed locally. The state has for quite some time transferred to local government an increasingly active role of providing rehabilitative services to persons who have been convicted of a crime. These services cover a wide range of subjects, are evidence based, and are provided by many sources including of course different organizations within the private sector.
It is common sense to recognize not every incident of bad human behavior that grabs the attention of the criminal justice system requires the person to be jailed, either as a pretrial detainee or as part of a person’s sentence upon conviction. Most would agree that many times, the circumstances and conduct are serious enough that sanctions and some sort of reconciliation is required by our own sense of community standards. That is where the various diversion programs have an important impact, said Chipman
In 2018, the Prosecutor’s Office approved the diversion of a total of 204 misdemeanors and for the first time, felony offenders.
2019: 108 misdemeanors; 30 felonies: 138 total.
2020: 144 misdemeanors; 24 felonies. 168 total.
2021 to date is 42 misdemeanors; 6 felonies: 48 total to date.
There are certainly cost savings to the county related to not incarcerating persons diverted out of the system. There are of course costs incurred by ensuring sufficient staff is employed to manage the program and monitor the participants. Fees imposed upon all participants in diversion programs, at every level— misdemeanor, felony, or infraction—help to defray these added costs.
Community Corrections has seen an increase in clients over the past year in both sentenced and Pre-Trial Supervision. With an average daily caseload of 132 clients, that averages out to Community Corrections having a population of 42 less clients than the County Jail has inmates and supervising those clients at no cost to the local tax base.
Community Corrections not only provides a vehicle for those convicted to serve out their sentence, but they are also provided the much needed rehabilitative services only community supervision agencies can provide.
Community Corrections partnerships with local employers has provided a workforce in a time when employers are struggling to find employees. Community Corrections started our Employer Initiative over two years ago and continue to grow partnerships weekly, said Byers.
Programs such as the County Drug and Alcohol Program, Smart Recovery, Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT) all Evidence Based Programs they offer clients. In addition, Community Corrections partners with the local Treatment Providers to ensure that the substance use disorders and mental health of our clients are being addressed.
The ongoing use of Community Supervision by the Prosecutor’s Office ensures that Jail Space remains for those individuals that pose a significant risk to the safety of Marshall County residents.
Ward Byers, Director of Community Corrections and County Prosecutor Nelson Chipman will be on WTCA’s ‘What’s Your Opinion Show’ this Friday at 10 a.m. to discuss this in greater details.