County inmate population sinks by 40 percent

By SARAH FENTEM
Herald Staff Writer

This week, three of the 10 cell blocks at the Dubois County Security Center stand completely empty, a result of what officials say is the jail’s lowest inmate population in years.

The number of inmates has decreased nearly 40 percent compared with the same time last year, a trend that started about two months ago. As of this morning, there were 47 inmates in the county jail, compared with 78 during the first week of October 2012.

Law enforcement officials attribute the development to rehabilitation measures within the system, alternatives to incarceration and a proactive police force.

“There’s probably 10 reasons” for the change, said Sgt. Stuart Wilson of the Dubois County Sheriff’s Department. “All equally important.”

County Sheriff Donny Lampert thinks the increase is due in part to law enforcement’s rehabilitation programs, such as the county drug court, which are instrumental in guarding against recidivism, or repeat offenses. He said crime in the county is overwhelmingly tied up with substance abuse, and the rate of crime goes down when criminal justice programs address these underlying issues.

“The violent-type stuff, I think, goes hand in hand with drugs and alcohol,” he said. “The majority of crime is related to that.”

Lampert also credits the drop to proactive measures taken by law enforcement to prevent crime from occurring in the first place, such as outreach to local schools.

Even for criminals who end up in jail, the focus is not on punishment but on rehabilitation, said Wilson, a direction that reflects a national trend in criminal justice.

“The legal system in Indiana is leaning more towards … alternatives to jail,” he said, mentioning probation, day reporting and work release programs as examples as new alternatives for imprisonment.  “Not as many people are going to be going to prison.”

The drop in numbers means savings for the county as well. For example, the security center feeds inmates at the price of approximately $1 per meal, with three meals a day. With 30 fewer people in jail than normal, that means the sheriff’s department is looking at savings of around $90 a day.

“I never thought the inmate population would be the same as when I started in ’98,” Wilson said.
“I never thought I would see a population in the 40s, ever.”

Contact Sarah Fentem at sfentem@dcherald.com.




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