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Starke Co. community corrections merges with probation dpt.

KNOX, Ind. -- After receiving board approval at the end of June, Starke County Community Corrections is merging with the probation department. The director of the new Court Services department says the move should reduce caseloads while saving the county big bucks.

The director says putting only one person in charge (instead of one leader for Community Corrections and one for Probation) gives the county general fund an extra $45,000 and leaves $30,000 from the Indiana Department of Corrections grant to devote to other services.

The most important impact, they say though, is on the people.

Now, files and stacks of names sit on the desks of case managers and probation officers.

They're all people whose lives they have to help get on track.

“That’s a pretty big chunk of change we deal with right now," said Supervising Officer of the Probation Department, Chuck Phillips.

Starke's four probation officers are currently covering about 400 cases.

The sole Community Corrections supervisor is managing around 40.

The department just hired another case manager to help out.

“When case load numbers get that high, it becomes an issue of being reactive to a violation as opposed to proactive and having a conversation, a development of a case plan, and trying to impact and effect change in your offenders," said Director of Court Services, Shawn Mattraw.

Now that probation and community corrections are becoming one Court Services department, the hope is to gradually shift over some of the load.

To facilitate the shift, the current corrections case managers will test to become licensed probation officers in Indiana.

“It’ll help me see my participants all the way through their entire sentence...When you put all that work into them, and then you have to say bye and send them over to probation, so it will be much much nicer for me and for them to stick with that person that they already built rapport with, so I’m really excited about that," said Kolleen Woods, the Supervisor of the Community Corrections division.

“You know the whole thought process on the merger was to increase public safety and to increase accountability...Anytime you can increase the safety of your community, you can’t never go wrong there," said Chuck.

The director says they hope to use some of the IDOC money to provide in-house counseling and other services instead of outsourcing to other agencies.

One county commissioner said they don't have a specific use for the money yet, but the county definitely has needs to be fulfilled.

With the merge, Starke County becomes the 18th county in Indiana to combine the two departments.

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