Thursday, November 17, 2011

County Officials' Refusal to Consider Alternatives Will Cost Taxpayers

County Officials' Refusal to Consider Alternatives Will Cost Taxpayers

by Douglas Garner
Zerbe Garner Miller & Blondell, LLP

The jail expansion plan has been approved by the County Commissioners and is set to be voted on by County Council on November 22nd at 6:30 p.m. It will cost county taxpayers at least eight million dollars to build and millions more to operate. The jail expansion is a direct result of the Prosecutor’s and Judges’ failure to change policies that caused the jail overcrowding dilemma. They would rather throw county taxpayers’ money at the problem and lock more people up than admit current strategies are not working and seek new solutions.

Less expensive and more effective alternatives to incarceration are underutilized by our Prosecutor and Judges. The primary response over the past 20 years has been to lock offenders up, both pretrial and after conviction. Dearborn and Ohio Counties share a prosecutor and a judge and are leaders in Indiana in sending people to the Department of Corrections (DOC). Dearborn County and Ohio County are 6th and 3rd respectively out of 92 counties in sending people to the DOC for low-level (Class D) felony convictions. With more jail space, more people will be held in jail longer locally.

Holding offenders in jail and sending them to the DOC for short periods of time is ineffective in preventing future crime, wastes money and ruins lives. “Lock them up and throw away the key” might be a popular campaign slogan, but it does not protect our community. The maximum sentence for a D Felony is three years. It is often served in 1 ½ years with good time credit. This means D Felony offenders will be released and be back in our community in a short period of time. Contrary to local thinking, “a taste of prison” is not helpful in reducing recidivism. Sending offenders to prison for a few months does not increase the chances they will stay out of trouble. It does the opposite. Over
67% of prison inmates reoffend within three years of release. Appropriate treatment reduces recidivism by more than 30% over those receiving no treatment.

A felony conviction and no treatment increases the likelihood an offender will be involved in new criminal behavior. If our county officials were truly concerned about protecting the community from crime, they would be proposing spending more money on appropriate treatment for low level offenders. Eight million dollars in building costs and likely over one million per year in operating costs for an expanded jail would fund a lot of treatment.

Since 1980, the number of incarcerated Americans has quadrupled. We have the highest documented incarceration rate in the world at 754 per 100,000 people. Albert Einstein reportedly said, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” It is time to try something different in Dearborn County.
Douglas Garner


Anonymous said...

If only you could replace Hughes...

Anonymous said...

So well said Doug

Stephanie Libbert said...

Mr. Garner,
As an informed taxpayer and staunch patriot I can not express my gratitude towards you for having the courage to come forward from the inside and take the time to inform the residents and bring forth your facts and your straight forward analysis of the current situation. This jail expansion is a bad, bad idea for the reasons you so eloquently stated. The right thing for the county to do is inform and ask the people what WE want. We have been barely informed of the facts and it will be decided at council instead of by referendum.(as it should have been.) I admire your courage and if I can support your efforts I will. I fear this county will have that jail filled up within 6 months, and it will be used by the justice system as their cash-cow. Thanks for bring the facts. As a registered nurse I too have seen the statistics on re-offenders and again you're right the money should either not be spent at all or spent to REALLY help people. An expanded jail is just an expensive band-aid to cover up the festering infection, which is bad justice system policies that contribute to the over-crowding. To county council please vote NO and STOP this.

Stephanie Libbert, RN,BSN

Anonymous said...

Just asking...It seems that no matter what the discussion, somebody makes the inevitable knee-jerk, snarky comment about Hughes. Depending on the topic, you may have a point, sort of, but not on this subject. Don't you know that Hughes has been the lone voice of the commissioners against the jail, and that his councilman brother at times sounds a lot like Mr. Garner in his opposition to the jail?
This is an honest question. It will be interesting to see if there is a honest answer.

Anonymous said...

From: BEVERLY VALENTIE I am a perfect example of how some Dearborn County officials abuse incarceration. My friends, family, as well as myself, are certain that I was set up to be arrested. I was verbally attacked by a Greendae Police Dept. employee and when I responded I was verbally attacked by a officer who was standing there watching television. As happens to most of us when we get excited my voice rose. I was not screaming, did not curse, and was just asking the officer why he was yelling at me and not the employee as she had verbally attacked me. He then put handcuffs on me and took me to the Dearborn County jail. I was first told I could make a phone call but then was told I could not, and I was not allowed out on bond. When I talked with a representative with the Justice Dept., I was told that my civil and federal rights had been abused. My family should have sued but chose to leave the county. Perfect example of abusing jail incarceration. So happy to be away from people who feel important by hurting others. BEVERLY VALENTINE

watchdog said...

Even Lake County with 4 casinos and the Chicago area next door has a lower rate than Dearborn County does.
So the boat and the tristate area is not the reason.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Mr. Gardner and Ms. Libbert,
These are questions and issues many supporting taxpayers have in both parties. It would be good to explore other options from other professionals.
We don't want self-aggrandisement getting in the way of other good ideas to improve the system.
What is the rush to spend taxpayers $$? We already blew a wad on the Event center. That did not get enough attention either.

cc said...

Council meets Tues Nov 22 at 6:30 PM on this jail expansion issue.

Anonymous said...

"Occupy" Lawrenceburg!