County Looking Into Probation Office Expansion

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The Shelbyville News on 9/29/2015 by Alex Krach

Discussions are currently ongoing between the Shelby County Commissioners, the Shelby County Council and the Shelby County Probation Office at the possibility of expanding the probation office by building a center, which would be connected to the Shelby County Community Corrections building.

“We’re just packed in here like sardines, at two people per office in about half of my offices,” Terri Bodine, the chief corrections officer at the probation office, said, adding that the close quarters can affect client confidentiality.

“Let’s say we do an alcohol and drug assessment; well, with two officers per office, one officer has to leave and schedule around the other. That means that officer who left has to find somewhere else to go. There’s a lot of wasted time because we can’t (meet individuals at the same time) and don’t even have a room to do those assessments privately. We’re managing, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not a very productive plan and it’s limiting us from getting the most out of our employees. There’s downtime and people looking for a desk with a computer,” Bodine said.

The space limitations wouldn’t be so bad, as they’ve managed it in the past; however, Shelby County is beginning to experience an influx of people going on probation because of the recent criminal code reforms. As a result, fewer people are being incarcerated and more people are being released into the community, under community supervision, such as the type the probation office and community corrections offer.

“The issue is, if we have a staff meeting, it’s literally in the hallway, and I have support staff in the hallway because there is no place to put them. So we don’t have a place where we can have work meetings or a place where we can hash some things out. We don’t even have place to put a table up to sit down; we’re all just standing in the hallway and the phone’s ringing and people are at the front.”

“With that being said, we’re probably going to expand to be able to provide these services. Down the road, I anticipate that we’ll probably add a few more personnel because, again, if individuals are not in prison, we’ll need the staff to deal with that increase. We’re already dealing with that, but it’s tight. It’s packed,” Bodine said.

The new reforms require community corrections and the probation office develop programming to “help these people be successful in the community,” Bodine said.

“Evidence-based programming and cognitive behavioral therapy models are a part of the programming, and we really need space to provide that, be it a room, like a training room or whatever.”

“In order to do that (programming), there’s also a lot of training involved for the officers and for community corrections, as well, because we’re collaborating with them due to another law that was passed. We’re working together to try and provide these services. We’re already providing some programming to offenders, probationers and community corrections clients.”

The county is currently purchasing properties for the expansion, and Bodine and Kevin Nigh, president of the Shelby County Commissioners, both estimated that the building will be 80,000 to 100,000 square feet. Bodine said that the project, from start to finish, could take anywhere from a year to three years, but added that that was speculation.

Currently, Bodine is waiting to see if any more buildings are purchased to continue her talks with an architect about the building’s design.

In order for the building to be built, Nigh said that the council, the commissioners and the probation office would all need to approve the expansion.