Report recommends treatment facility in community

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

Dubois County needs a community-based, residential treatment facility, a researcher studying the county’s criminal justice system concluded.

“Providing community-based, residential facilities allows for an integration into the community a lot easier,” said Dr. Brian Lovins of the University of Cincinnati’s Corrections Institute. “So you have people that are able to come into the program. Family members can support the people and come in for family treatment, and be able to pass through the front door.“

On Monday, Lovins presented to the Dubois County Commissioners the results of a study about the county’s criminal justice system and procedures. The study, which was funded by the Dubois County Community Foundation, gave recommendations to reduce the amount of time people spend in jail or the amount of time they spend going through the legal system.

“There was a ton of interest in using the jail as the treatment facility for folks,” Lovins said. “The problem is that jails are not the place for treatment. Jails are the place to hold people that are dangerous and to exact punishment on the back end.

“The place for behavioral health services is not in the jail,” he said.

Jodi Richardson, director of behavioral health services at Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center, further explained that the treatment facility would be for the community.

“The treatment provider will not be solely based for the criminal justice system, for people who are currently involved in the system,” she said. “It would be a resource within our community, that other people can be referred to and hopefully get the treatment that they need.”

Lovins noted that Dubois County is different from other counties he’s studied, in that it has partnerships with other services in the community.

“One of the things that was super impressive with Dubois County was the fact that you haven’t used your jail for that,” he said, “that you have developed community partnerships and opportunities for folks to get treatment outside of incarceration.”

Lovins’ report, the “Dubois County Criminal Justice System Assessment,” had five main goals, Lovins said. Those were to:

• Understand the unique characteristics of Dubois County’s criminal justice landscape.

• Improve public safety through exploring a full array of criminal justice responses.

• Assess the current quality of services available and understand the capacity for improving community programming.

• Understand the services available and to assess if the system is intervening at the right time, for the right people, with the right interventions.

• Identify the current entry and exit points from the justice system and to determine if addressing any of the gaps would have an impact on the proposed 2039 jail population.

According to the report, Lovins collected information by conducting interviews and working with officials and staff in the justice system as well as people who were impacted by the system. Researchers also did on-site reviews of existing services and reviewed previous justice reports, including the study done by RQAW.

Lovins’ study produced six recommendations that were explained in the report and discussed by Lovins Monday.

Along with a treatment facility, Lovins recommended expanding the scope of pretrial services, developing a public defender’s office, expanding pre-arrest and prosecutorial diversion programs, and expanding community corrections programming.

Lovins also recommended that a criminal justice coordinating committee be created to work through the report’s recommendations as well as continue to discuss criminal justice matters on a continual basis.

“I really believe that you have an incredible group of people here who are very invested in the interest of Dubois County and its citizens to provide the best services,” Lovins said. “It’s a small town feel, and so people get together when needed. But the problem is is that someone has to ring the alarm. Someone has to ring the bell and say we have a problem.”

Community Foundation Director Clayton Boyles said that the foundation will keep the work going with the stakeholders in the criminal justice system. An organization called Community Solutions will facilitate conversations about how to accomplish the recommendations, and what other actions need to take place to improve the system.

“Our job is to really hold the process and move it to action,” Leah Hackett of Community Solutions told the commissioners. “So take all of this studying and talking you guys have been engaged in for a very long time, and move it to action.”

That will be a seven-month process, she said.

Bill Weikert, former Dubois Circuit Court judge and former county prosecutor, followed the work that was done and was at the meeting Monday to hear the results. He said after the presentation that he supported the study and recommendations, and hopes to be more active as the recommendations are worked through, made into concrete plans, and possibly implemented.

“I think that the plan that the foundation has presented is a great idea,” he said, giving two reasons.

One is that he feels that the criminal justice system needs to flesh out a more extensive plan for dealing with people who have mental health and addiction issues. “Are we going to take mental health cases and drug addiction cases and warehouse them in a jail? Or are we going to have a different plan that might help them, so that they can become productive members of society,” Weikert said.

The second reason is that the foundation’s plan for moving forward would discover “many facts that we don’t have before the public right now. And you can’t have too many facts when you’re talking about spending $40 to $50 million of taxpayers’ money,” he said.




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