Agencies Honored For Accepting SERCC Community Service
By Mike Perleberg
(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) – The organization that is assigned to oversee community service for courts in three southeast Indiana counties is in need of other organizations that could use the free help.
Southeast Regional Community Corrections serves Dearborn, Ohio, and Switzerland counties. The organization provides opportunities for offenders to meet their potential as responsible citizens, said Dearborn Superior Court II Judge Sally Blankenship, SERCC board chair.
SERCC recognized its best community partners during a luncheon held Wednesday at Ivy Tech Community College Southeast in Lawrenceburg. Among the 12 partners honored were the City of Lawrenceburg, City of Aurora, City of Greendale, Lawrenceburg Fire Department, Aurora Fire Rescue, Greendale Fire Department, Bright Fire Department, P.A.W.S. of Dearborn County, Lawrenceburg Community Center, Dearborn Adult Center, Heart House, and the Greendale Cemetery Association.
Those agencies are among about four dozen SERCC client non-profits throughout the three counties.
Each year as many as 300 offenders are ordered to perform community service with SERCC. The agency’s partners provide the opportunities for those hours to be earned, meaning those adult and juvenile offenders can avoid jail time or fines.
“A lot of people we deal with don’t have a lot of positive role models around. So what we do is send them to work with people like you, because you are positive role models. We hope they learn your behaviors at work, learn good work ethics, and how they should live their lives,” said SERCC Director Steve Kelly.
Most of the people ordered to community service are non-violent, low-level felony or misdemeanor offenders, Kelly said. Instead of simply punishing offenders, judges can require them to give back to their communities, too.
SERCC Community Service Coordinator Guinevere Emery said the community service program has been revamped to make it as streamlined and as successful as can be. Part of that process is building the list of available places to send offenders to earn their service hours.
“We want to ask your assistance because we want to make this program stronger,” Emery said. “We need more people to help us. We need more people to help our individuals in need of community service. We definitely need some of the smaller organizations to be highlighted.”
Governments, agencies, or non-profits within Dearborn, Ohio, or Switzerland counties interested in partnering with SERCC should contact Emery or Jennifer Parsons at (812) 537-8842.
SERCC Becoming More Valuable In Steering Offenders Onto Right Path
With an influx of crime caused by a heroin and prescription pill epidemic – which has led to an increase in crimes ranging from burglaries to violence – SERCC’s services are becoming more important. Legislature-approved changes to the Indiana Criminal Code coming this year will also increase the burden.
“They’ve changed when we can send people to the Department of Corrections. So there is going to be a lot more need for many offenders – particularly some of the drug offenders – to be treated more than ever before in our community,” Judge Sally Blankenship said.
Blankenship indicated that Dearborn County is “a step ahead” for the coming changes. An expansion of the county jail is in progress and judges have the ability to order drug offenders to take part in the Jail Chemical Addiction Program, one of only three such in-jail treatment programs in the state.
About 96 percent of SERCC’s funding comes from state grant funds or user fees, making it an inexpensive alternative to jail or prison, according to Kelly.
In addition to community service, SERCC administrates in-home incarceration, work release, and road crews. Home detention for adults and juveniles is the majority of the agency’s work, Kelly said.
Accountability Change and Community Court along with the new Veterans Court in Dearborn County provide immediate treatment to offenders. The programs provide at least 90 days of treatment and group counseling in jail, said Kelly.
“The primary goal is to provide immediate and concerted treatment to the drug offender. This combines intensive judicial supervision, mandatory drug testing, sanctions and treatment to help substance abusing offenders break the cycle of addiction and crime that accompanies it,” Kelly explained.
The various programs coincide with SERCC’s objective to change offenders before they have to go to prison.
“If we don’t hold the individuals using the programs accountable we are defeating the whole purpose. The purpose is to integrate them back into the community and make sure that if they’ve had a substance abuse problem that we at least are doing what we can to maintain them as drug free through drug testing, counseling, and things of that sort,” Blankenship said.