Additional study an investment in justice system


A new study will be conducted to determine how Dubois County’s criminal justice system departments can improve their services.

The study, which will be funded by the Dubois County Community Foundation, will look at where the system is lacking in services, and how the different departments can work together more and work more efficiently.

The heads of the courts and different departments didn’t think that information was supplied in the recent study concerning the jail.

“We hoped to have learned more about our processes,” Community Corrections Director Megan Durlauf said, “what’s working well and what’s not, and how we can be more in line with evidence-based practices throughout our system.”

She read to the Dubois County Commissioners Monday a letter signed by the criminal justice department heads and the county’s judges.

In the letter, they said they were looking for information on how they could operate more effectively, “which would increase public safety, decrease costs, make us more efficient and reduce recidivism.”

“A wholistic analysis of the system would give us the ability to fully understand the needs of our respective departments, as well as an idea of where our additional resources need to be allocated,” Durlauf read.

The Dubois County Community Foundation is glad to fund the study, Foundation Director Clayton Boyles told the commissioners.

“We believe the citizen population that is served through our criminal justice system affects more than the inmates and the clients that are currently being served,” he said. “It affects their families, their children, our children, our schools, [Court-Appointed Special Advocates], [Department of Child Services], our workforce. Investing in our criminal justice system has the potential of creating a major ripple effect in our county.”

The information from the study could help county officials in the decision making for future improvements for the justice system, including planning new buildings. And it would help the county to possibly obtain grant funding through entities like the community foundation and Lilly Endowment.

“When taxpayers question the need to spend millions on these buildings,” Durlauf read, “decision-makers can say they did their due diligence and completed not just a jail study, but a broad-scope analysis of the criminal justice system.”

This information would help determine how resources could be reallocated to combat the drivers of overcrowding in the jail and work release, the high numbers of arrests and the full court schedules, she said.

The commissioners said they would be glad to have the information from the study.

“Our responsibility is to provide the facilities that accomplishes what we need to accomplish,” Commissioner Elmer Brames said. “As we develop that scope, the more input we have the better.”

It could take about four months to complete the study, Durlauf said. No firm has been selected yet to conduct the study, she explained.

As part of the study, the firm will get all the stakeholders in the system together and “facilitate a discussion on how the systems are working together, how we’re working in silos and how to bridge those gaps,” Durlauf said.

The commissioners are currently considering hiring an architect to design the new jail facility and possible justice system, as well as a construction manager for the project. That work will continue, Commissioners President Chad Blessinger said. But having this information would help the commissioners make the final determination for the facilities. He added that looking at services, like treatment for addictions, would also help them understand what kind of space is needed for those. He was glad that this more in-depth study is being done.

“The more information we can have,” Commissioner Nick Hostetter said, “the better.”

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