Commissioners show support for work release center



Jackson County commissioners threw their support behind the possibility of partnering with other local governmental units to open a 150-inmate work release center.

The center, which is just in the planning phase at this time, would require an interlocal agreement between the governmental units that would use it, Commissioner Drew Markel said after a commissioners meeting Tuesday at the courthouse annex.

Markel is representing commissioners on a committee comprised of local government officials involved in the planning process. Both the city of Seymour and the county are the two local governments expected to share costs of the center, and the two are looking for a third government entity to join the effort.

Other members of the committee are Seymour Mayor Craig Luedeman, Jackson Circuit Court Judge Richard W. Poynter, Jackson-Jennings Community Corrections Director J.L. Brewer and county councilmen Brian Thompson, Dave Hall and Michael Davidson.

A work release center would allow felons and those convicted on misdemeanor charges to work while serving their sentences. The inmates would go to a job during working hours and return to the secured center at night.

Markel said the committee has been in discussions with Jennings County officials — who have attended the committee meetings for information — about whether they would be interested in joining the agreement.

Luedeman has a plan for Seymour’s role and is expected to request support from the city council soon.

Markel said Jennings County’s commitment may be more complicated with the recent approval of a new jail there.

“I don’t know that they will since they just decided to build a $28 million jail,” he told commissioners.

Funding for the county would come from the public safety local income tax fund, Markel said.

He said the committee is looking for a third partner — or even more — for financial support to lessen costs for each entity. The committee will proceed with the project with the county and city agreement but will leave it open to a third governmental unit that might join later, he said.

“Whether that’s Jennings County or Scott County or someone else nearby,” he said.

Officials have looked at an equal cost for Seymour and the county. If a partner joins, they would negotiate how much would be contributed toward the program.

“It’s beneficial to Seymour and the county and could be for many,” he said.

Where the center will be located is still in question, Markel said, but officials have agreed Seymour is likely the best option because of its location.

“Seymour is a much more centralized location for industrial work, and there are a lot of jobs in Walesboro, so if we have to load a bus and go there, then Seymour makes the best sense,” Markel said.

The committee has looked at several options, including constructing a building or renovating a structure, such as the Jackson Superior Court I building on Seymour’s far west side. The court and offices there will be moved to the new Jackson County Judicial Center in Brownstown after it opens sometime later this fall.

Markel said while the committee has discussed both options, it may be more cost effective to construct a new facility.

“You’d basically be taking an office building and trying to make it a secure living facility, which would be difficult,” he said.

While much hasn’t been decided about the center, the committee has started exploring the process of selling bonds to finance the center. That step was only taken because securing such bonds is a long process.

“It doesn’t mean we have to proceed with it, but it takes so long to get these bonds,” Markel said.

Discussions about the idea of opening a work release center have been going on for several years, Markel said, because such a program would be beneficial for inmates and give judges more options when considering a sentence.

Markel said it could be a great benefit for those who have drug offenses and are battling addiction.

“Basically locking them up for 60 days and drying them out doesn’t work when you just send them home,” he said. “(Work release) gives them a structured facility to work, get some money, to get back on their feet and hopefully find a place to be.”

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