Starke County has gotten over $103,000 in grant funding from the Indiana Department of Correction. A grant for over $80,000 has been awarded to Starke County Community Corrections to increase case management services and surveillance of those taking part in its programs, while another grant for nearly $23,000 is going to the Starke County Circuit Court Probation Department.
Chief probation officer John Thorstad says changes in state law have made the funds available for more uses, “The Department of Correction last year decided that they would expand the community corrections grants to include probation, the prosecutors, and actually enhance some community corrections services due to the law changes – it’s kind of a tail-on addition to the law changes – and especially for diversion of what used to be D Felony offenders. Now they’re Level 6s, who after the first of this year won’t be able to go to the Department of Correction, so we’ve got to work with them more in the community. So they’re community-based grants.”
He says the grant money will let the Probation Department hire a new part-time officer to help with its pre-trial program, “We go into the jail each morning where offenders that have been arrested the night before get evaluated for possible release. We make a bond recommendation to the judge, and the judge can include supervision or home detention. The whole goal is to try to be in touch with offenders prior to their even going to court to maybe enhance getting some treatment or getting involved in some type of programs. We want them to be back in the community and work with their families and have some community support.”
Thorstad says the new officer would be able to do more specific evaluations to make sure the right offenders are being targeted for programs. The new officer would have to be certified according to state requirements.
The Indiana Department of Community Correction had a total of $5 million to grant to counties around the state. In spite of the fact that it received grant requests for more than three times that amount, Starke County had its full request approved.
Thornstad says the teamwork between departments made the grant application successful, “Between Mr. [Bob] Hinojosa in Community Corrections and his department and our department here, we’ve done a lot of things that are forward-thinking as far as the correctional practices. We’re fortunate to have Judge [Kim] Hall who’s always willing to let us do those types of things and present some programs and opportunities that we’re kind of on the cusp of what Indiana’s looking toward doing in the future.”
According to a statement released by Starke County Community Corrections, the county was given high marks by the IDOC for its plan for collaboration between Community Corrections and the Probation Department.