Allen County Sheriff David Gladieux alleged Thursday that local officials don't have “any intention” of letting a work-release program continue under his department's supervision.
The charge came during a meeting of the Allen County Community Corrections Advisory Board, whose members voted 19-1 to continue pursuing state money for a residential program that would keep low-level offenders out of jail.
The program became controversial last year when it became known that it planned to house those people at 7117 Venture Lane, a former state-run juvenile correctional facility renovated by the sheriff's department for work-release housing.
The work-release program allows inmates selected as low-risk by the sheriff's department to hold jobs in the community while spending off hours in confinement or on time-limited periods at their home.
Work release is now housed in an old building on the Byron Health Center campus at Lima and Carroll roads. Allen County commissioners have said they plan to sell the property.
The new community corrections program would serve offenders who qualify to live in the community but have no place to go for various reasons, including unwillingness by relatives to house them or limited resources.
Gladieux was the only member of the board who voted against the proposal, as he did when a proposal to investigate the state program was approved 14-2 at a meeting Oct. 15. Fort Wayne Police Chief Steve Reed also voted against that move, but was absent from Thursday's meeting.
The new proposal directs Kim Churchward, community corrections' executive director, to draw up a budget for starting and running such a program. Members of the advisory committee who would assist her would also outline eligibility requirements, a timeline and opening date and programming.
The Venture Lane facility is all but complete – but remains unused.
Churchward said the department received a Feb. 17 letter from the Indiana Department of Correction Commissioner Robert E. Carter Jr. that she characterized as “a letter of intent” to support the program financially.
She said DOC officials visited the Venture Lane building on Feb. 5 and were impressed.
The letter says the DOC “is in support” of the center, “pending the receipt and approval” of a revised grant application, budget, policies and proposed ways to measure performance, among other items.
But it does not promise funding, Churchward told The Journal Gazette before the meeting.
Previously, $1 million was cited as the possible amount of a state grant the county could receive.
The community corrections board also was presented with a detailed report on the program's prospects and a summary of benefits to the county developed by the Allen County Commissioners.
The benefits list included 11 services provided under community corrections compared to four under work release.
Allen County Councilman Bob Armstrong, attending the meeting as a guest, asked after the vote whether the work-release program “is going away” and if there is a Plan B if the state doesn't come through with money.
Judge Fran Gull of Allen County Superior Court replied, “No, that is completely up to the sheriff.”
Gladieux took issue with that. “I think no one at this table believes the county has any intention” of having the work-release program continue under the sheriff's department. “My budget would be moved to community corrections,” he said.
Earlier, Gladieux questioned whether the DOC would give money to the county to sustain the program given its history.
The DOC mandated some inmates be housed locally instead of in state correctional facilities but hasn't paid the full cost of housing them, he said. The DOC pays $37.50 a day to house the inmate when it costs about $55 a day, he said.
Gull said she understood. “We've all been burned,” she said.
“Oh, don't I know it,” Gladieux replied.
After the meeting, Gladieux told The Journal Gazette the proposal “is a takeover, period.”
He added: “It's a takeover because the judges want to have a say where inmates go and think the sheriff should not have any say” and noted the county has spent more than $7 million on the renovation.
Churchward was given until Feb. 28 to come up with the budget and other items for the grant application. “They said 'Submit what you need' and they'd make the decision,” she said of the IDOC, adding she did not know of any proposal to share the facility with work release.