A new Allen County work-release facility in a renovated juvenile correctional center is all-but-ready to open.
But now there's a hitch, Allen County Sheriff David Gladieux said today.
Some county officials want the facility to be run by the Community Corrections program – not the sheriff.
The sheriff runs the existing work-release facility on the grounds of the Byron Health Center at Carroll and Lima Roads.
At a special meeting Tuesday of the Community Corrections advisory board, members considered a proposal to add a residential work-release component to its services.
The move would require use of the former Northeast Juvenile Correctional Facility on Venture Drive near Cook Road, members were told
That facility has been undergoing renovation at a cost of more than $4 million as a replacement for the deteriorating Byron location.
But the board stopped short of approving the move. Instead, board members voted only to investigate the possibility.
Board members said they wanted more information about who would be eligible for placement, the staffing needed, the facility's expected budget and whether and how much state funding could be expected.
All but two board members – both from law enforcement – voted for further investigation. The "no" votes came from Gladieux and Fort Wayne Police Chief Steve Reed.
Gladieux said the idea is being advanced by Republican County Councilman Tom Harris on the premise of money being available from the state Department of Correction.
He said that state funding may or may not materialize – and may or may not offset the program as it stands now.
Harris said in a telephone interview that the state DOC is trying to direct more people away from incarceration and into community-based programs that focus on rehabilitation instead of punishment.
Such programs, which are offered by Community Corrections, help offenders address personal situations such as addiction, homelessness and mental health problems, Harris said.
He said the state is now signalling there is money available for counties that have Community Corrections residential beds. Allen County does not have such beds, but could if the new work-release facility is put into service.
"We look at it that there are state dollars that we're not getting," Harris said.
He added money was made available for the renovation with the understanding it would be operated cooperatively by the sheriff and Community Corrections.
But Gladieux said the plan was broached with him only recently. He said "the beds are literally made" at the renovated facility, and it was designed to fit the sheriff's needs.
Karen Richards, Allen County prosecutor, said it was not a good idea to establish such an effort so quickly.
"If we do this right, this is not a cheap program," she said. "I don't want to become part of a half(way) program."
Richards agreed there are a number of inmates who could be eligible for work release but remain in jail only because they have no home to go to.
She said they could be spared incarceration and might have a better chance of staying out of jail in the future if there were a residential program to which judges could sentence them.
Her comments led to the proposal to investigate more before committing.