Chesterton Tribune



Porter County Jail starts new Adult Ed program

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Inmates of the Porter County Jail are going back to school.

All three Porter County Commissioners got behind a request from the Center of Workforce Innovations to initiate an adult education program at the jail to allow inmates to earn a high school education and have better chance of finding employment once they are released.

That decreases the likelihood of them being repeat offenders, said Sheriff David Lain, and thus a less populated jail. “It’s trying to break that cycle of coming back.”

CWI President and CEO Linda Woloshansky said a lack of education is a common factor for those serving jail time which is why adult education “really needs to occur” at PCJ.

A pilot program with six inmates has already begun using the roughly $4,000 in donations the CWI has received, but those funds are likely to run out by the end of June, Woloshansky said.

With the Commissioners strapped for cash, Lain offered cash on hand from his department to keep the program going for the rest of the year, which will be coupled with funds from the Porter County Community Foundation. Woloshansky said about $17,000 is needed to cover this year and then $27,500 for the full 2015 calendar year.

That money will be used to pay a teacher, a teacher’s aide and for supplies. The set up is modeled after the one in place at Pulaski County Jail, Woloshansky said.

The Commissioners are looking to support the program next year in their budget with maybe half the funds coming from the Sheriff’s Department.

Lain said he is confident in providing the funding which could be taken from commissary funds.

About 25 to 35 PCJ inmates will take part in the program for 8 to 10 hours a week with two or three sessions, Woloshansky said. It would last 48 weeks each year with some time off for holidays.

Lain said the last adult education program at the jail ended in 2010. That was when Portage School Board voted to close 19 adult education centers due to shortages in funding from the state. Some of the centers were reopened by the CWI.

Woloshansky said interest in revamping education at the jail grew over time, helped along by donations from community members.

“There have been requests, requests, requests,” she said.

Inmates will be evaluated and selected on the potential that they can complete their high school education, and will have a better chance of finding employment once their jail sentence expires, Woloshansky said.

Workforce One is also eyeing development of vocational programs for those who complete the program and are released from jail.

Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, along with Commissioners Laura Shurr Blaney, D-South and Nancy Adams, R-Center, thanked Porter County Community Foundation President Barb Young for providing the money to carry the program this year.

“That’s a very thoughtful gift,” said Evans. “I think that gives us a really good start.”

Woloshansky said she wants start out conservative in launching the program but believes it will grow “more robust.”

Historic Train Study

Also, the Commissioners voted 3-0 in honoring the County Convention, Recreation and Visitor’s Commissioner’s request to be a partner with the Towns of Chesterton and Porter to pay for a feasibility study on having a historic trolley line connecting the towns with Dunes Parks Station.

Presentations were recently made to the town councils by PCCRVC officials asking them for their commitment for the $19,500 study by Stone Consulting. With the Commissioners chipping in, the study can be split four ways, making the cost $4,300 each for the County, Chesterton, Porter and the PCCRVC.

The study will help determine what needs to be done and the overall cost projection for the project. It proposes to use original South Shore cars to transport passengers, according to PCCRVC officials, and has the potential to boost tourism in Porter County.

The Chesterton Town Council took the PCCRVC’s request under advisement last week.

Evans said the Commissioner’s share will come from CEDIT funding while advising “there’s not much left there.”

In other business:

-- The Commissioners’ approved the purchase of two new John Deere 624K 4wd wheel loaders for the Highway Department at a bid price of $269,000.

-- A change was made in the management of the County Building Department. The daily operations of the department will now be overseen by Plan Commission Executive Director Robert Thompson instead of the County Commissioners.

“That’s the way it originally had been intended,” Evans said.

The building department has three positions which share an office with the Plan Commission. The Commissioners will still be in charge of hiring for the department.


Posted 5/21/2014