The Journal Gazette
Friday, July 23, 2021 1:00 am

Corrections board adds more to plate

Jail overcrowding among issues for state-mandated body

JAMIE DUFFY | The Journal Gazette

The Community Corrections Advisory Board will now co-exist as the local Justice Reinvestment Advisory Council, after the advisory board voted to take on the responsibility at its Thursday board meeting.

The state-mandated body is required to review, evaluate and make recommendations for local criminal justice systems and corrections programs, pretrial services, behavioral health treatment and recovery services, community corrections and county jail and probation services, according to state bylaw requirements. 

The council is tasked with reviewing and evaluating local jail overcrowding and recommending “a range of possible overcrowding solutions.” They are also to “compile reports regarding local criminal sentencing as directed by the state advisory council.” 

The board will have the same officers as the advisory board, including Allen County Superior Court Judge Fran Gull, Allen Circuit Court Judge Wendy Davis and the Rev. Bill McGill. 

County Commissioner Nelson Peters said it might seem like a power grab by the state, taking away local control from entities like the Allen County Sheriff's Department, but “the irony is, fundamentally, I'm not sure we've had a lot of say as it is. We are creatures of the state's benevolence.” 

The Community Corrections Residential Services Treatment Center was to be state-funded, but the state did not contribute any money to last year's $4.7 million budget. 

Kim Churchward, Community Corrections executive director, said she wasn't sure what the state contribution would be this year, but the submitted budget is $5.2 million. 

Overcrowding has occurred at the Allen County Jail despite rising numbers at Community Corrections Residential Services on Venture Lane on the city's northwest side.

Churchward reported Thursday that the center houses 154 residents at the 230-bed center; in March, she reported 104 participants. 

The treatment center was supposed to help reduce the local jail population, which as of Wednesday evening was 865.

The jail is built for 741 inmates. 

“I'm not sure what's causing those numbers,” Allen County Commissioner Nelson Peters said Thursday after the meeting. “If it weren't for this program, there might be another 100.” 

The advisory board dropped the idea of acquiring 333 E. Washington Blvd. for a new day reporting center and plans to remodel the current 20-year-old center on Superior Street, deemed too cramped, leaky and crumbling. 

This year, the Allen County Council brushed aside the bid to acquire the proposed building and renovate it at a cost of $8 million.

“They clearly kicked it to the curb,” Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull, advisory board chair, said Thursday. 

A needs assessment for the entire judicial system commissioned by the Allen County commissioners is expected to be presented soon, prepared by Elevatus Architecture, a local company that has built 80 jails across the United States.

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