Clay County Sheriff Mike Heaton takes Indiana Department of Correction Commissioner J. David Donahue on a tour of the Clay County Justice Center after a press conference announcing the new Clay County Re-Entry Program. The program is designed to prepare prison inmates for successful re-entry into their hometown communities in the Wabash Valley.
By IVY HERRON
The Indiana Department of Correction (DOC) and Clay County Sheriff's Department are working together to create an innovative program that will prepare prison inmates for successful re-entry into their hometown communities.
The Clay County Re-Entry Program (CCRP) is the first locally based re-entry program of its kind in the state, according to Commissioner J. David Donahue. He said Clay County's new jail facility and the eagerness of its staff to stop repeat offenders from returning to the facility made this program a perfect fit with the DOC.
"We are excited to partner with the Clay County Sheriff's Department to provide intensive training and community resources within Clay County to offenders re-entering society," Commissioner Donahue said. "Sheriff Heaton's efforts to reduce the recidivism rate matches our commitment to help offenders succeed and become productive citizens in Indiana."
Currently, statistics from the DOC show four out of every 10 offenders fail in the first three years after re-entering society. With 16,500 prisoners released throughout Indiana's 92 counties in the past year, and an estimated 40 percent expected to return, there is great interest in the new program.
"Without Clay County Sheriff Mike Heaton's initiative and this facility to develop this program, we'd still be working with the theory of 'we've always done it this way in the past' which is being proven everyday that is does not work," Donovan said. "We will definitely be watching this program, and we will spread its success around the state."
There are currently 47 male Wabash Valley inmates incarcerated in DOC facilities around the state.
These inmates will return home one day, according to Sheriff Heaton, and they, as well as their hometown communities, need to be prepared for the obstacles that lie ahead.
"We don't want to open the doors and just say 'good luck.' We`re not just going to house these people and then cut them lose back into their communities," Sheriff Heaton said. "We need to show them the opportunities that are out there for them to take advantage of and help them get an education and job training that will keep them from being repeat offenders."
The goal of the CCRP close-to-home program is to reduce recidivism -- repeat offenders -- by using local resources that would be easily available in an inmate's hometown.
The DOC will only select from eligible Wabash Valley inmates serving the final two years of their incarceration for priority consideration for participation in the program.
Once chosen, a participant will be evaluated to see what areas of assistance are needed to help that individual re-enter their community as a productive member of society.
While incarcerated, inmates can take advantage of CCRP services including education, medical, job and various life skills training.
The program curriculum will include classes in: Anger Management, Budgeting and Personal Finance, Cognitive program: "Thinking for a Change," Communicable Disease Awareness, Community Assistance Programs Domestic Violence, Drug and Alcohol Awareness, Health and Wellness, Life Skills, Resumes, Cover Letters and Interview Skills, Self-esteem and Stress Management.
The program also hopes to be able to provide inmates being released from the program with all the documentation -- a driver's licence, personal identification, social security documentation and etc. -- they will need.
After being released, inmates can also receive employment assistance, substance abuse treatment, medical and mental health treatment, family counseling, housing assistance and other social services.
The program has added benefits for inmates and their families.
"Good people make poor choices and sometimes they end up in jail," Commissioner Donovan said. "Often, the families of inmates can't visit, disconnecting and isolating inmates. They need that connection to home."
"Having them closer to home strengthens family ties and brings them in touch with local agencies and resources needed to be contributing members of the community," Sheriff Heaton added.
A two-year agreement with the Clay County Sheriffs Department will allow the coordination of the re-entry effort while the DOC will pay $35.00 per day for each DOC offender participating in the program.
Donovan says that the taxpayer reaps a benefit from this program because "it's a lot cheaper to house an inmate locally" than it is at the DOC.
Sheriff Heaton says that 16 inmates arrived at the Clay County Justice Center on Tuesday to participate in the new program. (See today's Public Record for further details.) He said the maximum number of participants will not go higher than 24 inmates at one time to ensure the effectiveness of the program.