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January 16, 2014

Clark council approves JDAI positions, but commissioners table grant approval

CLARK COUNTY — The Clark County Council signed off on two new, grant-funded juvenile justice positions Thursday, but the grant that would fund those positions is still under consideration.

The Clark County Commissioners voted unanimously to table a request from Circuit Court Judge Vicki Carmichael to approve a $95,000 grant from the Indiana Judicial Center’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, or JDAI, to fund the hiring of a local JDAI coordinator and a juvenile probation officer. The grant would fund the positions from Feb. 1 through June 30, Carmichael said. But because the grant was not approved by the commissioners, the state can’t process the grant, which means the new positions won’t likely be staffed until March or April, Carmichael said.

“Now we have two months or three months of this grant to spend, which reduces our ability or our likelihood that we’ll get grant monies in the future,” Carmichael said, “because if you don’t take the money they give you when they give it to you, they’re not likely to give you any more in the future.”

Commissioner John Perkins made the motion to table the grant approval, stating that he needed time to thoroughly acquaint himself with the terms of the grant before signing off. Perkins’ colleagues on the board of commissioners agreed, and the motion to table was approved 3-0.

The Clark County Council unanimously approved the positions after reconvening its Monday meeting. The council had previously failed to find a majority Monday.

“I’m grateful to them. I think they made the right decision. We have the opportunity to hire without county, local taxpayer money,” Carmichael said. “It’s statewide grant money, and I’m grateful that they did the right thing and approved the salary ordinances.”

Carmichael found herself at odds with fellow Circuit Court Judge Dan Moore, who chairs the Community Corrections Advisory Board. Because the grant is administered using the Indiana Department of Corrections’ Community Corrections grant protocol, the money must go through Community Corrections. However, Community Corrections wouldn’t need to do any other work on the grant, according to Michelle Tennell, statewide JDAI coordinator with the Indiana Judicial Center.

“JDAI is the juvenile justice improvement process that is courts, probation, prosecutor, public defender, detention, alternative programs, community members, stakeholders such as [the county council],” Tennell explained. “It’s the whole continuum of the criminal justice system coming together in collaboration to help with case processing and a number of other core strategies.”

Moore was wary that Community Corrections funds would be used to add positions in the county’s probation department, and expressed concern about the ongoing reduction in referrals that Community Corrections receives.

“I think it’s a great program, JDAI. I want to be on record for that,” Moore said. “I think it’s innovative and creative. But there’s a pink elephant in the room: We have five or six months of no referrals to Community Corrections adult [programs], and I think it’s all part of a comprehensive picture that can be resolved if people talk it through. I think that’s the challenge and it becomes win-win for everyone.”

Moore said he’d like to see representatives of the county council, the commissioners, Community Corrections and Judge Carmichael sit down to hash out their differences.

Carmichael denied that she was responsible for the reduction in referrals to Community Corrections since June 2013, and said the prosecutor’s office and the defense bar were responsible for recommending the program as part of plea agreements.

“I don’t get to choose who I send where unless I’m sentencing them after a trial, unless it’s discretionary with the court,” Carmichael stated. “If it’s a plea agreement, I can either accept it or reject it.”

Republican Councilman Steve Doherty made the motion to approve the salary ordinances for the two positions requested by Carmichael, with a second from Democrat Kevin Vissing. A roll-call vote proved unnecessary, as each member voted yes.

The county commissioners’ next meeting is scheduled to be held Thursday, Jan. 30.

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