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Dubois County Community Corrections Faces Financial Challenges

Dubois County Community Corrections Director J.P. Weisheit reported to the Dubois County Council Monday afternoon that his Department will run out of money by the end of June if the Council does not approve the budget for the Department, which begins July 1st.

The Department receives income from State of Indiana and from user fees from offenders who enter the Corrections Program and then pay for it out of the money that they earn from jobs obtained in the community.

Weisheit told the Council Monday, though, that his department is running out of money because as Sandy Morton told the Council “the department is spending more than it is bringing in.”

The shortfall in income is attributable to the offenders who do not or cannot pay for the privilege of being in the Corrections program. And, wage garnishments are not effective, because most offenders have other garnishments that come before Corrections garnishments – namely Child Support.

Weisheit told the Council that they have no leverage that they can use to get the money.

He told the council that the annual income from user fees covers services, supplies and the Correction Officers salaries and benefits.

He says that in the past, the Department has taken in around $47,000 to $48,000 per month.  Now, he reports that they are running $7,000 to $8,000 a month short.

Weisheit reported to the Council that he has dealt with the shortfall in offender fees for years and that over several years of getting worse, it has come to the point where expenses regularly exceed income.

He said that turning the Corrections participants back to the jail only exacerbates the problem because while it might produce some relief for his Department, the burden of bearing the costs falls back onto the jail side of the Court system.

In essence, the County is in a ‘no win’ situation no matter which way they turn.  That fact had many of the Council members animated about the fact that the taxpayers of Dubois County are the ones who pay the price.

Weisheit says that if a particular offender has garnishments for two or three children, a garnishment for $100.00 to $115.00 per month for user fees can quickly shrink to around $20.00 for his department.

The main problem being that there are no consequences for non-payment of user fees.

Weisheit says that often times his department pays for electronic monitoring equipment because the offender does not have a job and his department cannot make them get a job.  And there are those offenders on disability that cannot be forced to get one.

He said that while the Corrections program was established to help offenders be productive members of the community, the pitfalls have caused the program to falter.

The short term answer that the Council came up with Monday afternoon was to address the immediate financial need of the Department – they approved the annual budget beginning July 1st.  The next way to address the issue was to wait for the Community Corrections Committee to meet (on Tuesday), and then see what solutions they come up with.

Dubois County Council President Greg Kendall asked Weisheit to come back before the Council in a future meeting (probably in August) to find out what the committee determined will be a permanent solution and implement it.