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When a criminal offender leaves the Monroe County correctional system and completes her or his probation, the hope is that person won’t be brought before a judge again.
The county Probation Department is especially concerned with the offender’s future behavior: the lower the overall recidivism rate, the better the department is doing its job.
The only problem is the Probation Department right now has few ways of knowing how well it’s doing.
This afternoon, Chief Probation Officer Linda Brady told staff workers, county officials, and circuit court judges how the Probation Department is moving to become what is termed an “Evidence-based Organization.”
It’s a start in the long process of updating information systems so the department can tailor its programs to become more effective in preventing repeat offenses.
“Right now the probation department has three different databases, which we inherited. The main one we use is just ancient. We just got permission from the county council to have one database for the entire department. The system is called QUEST and we can actually measure recidivism. Right now we actually do most of our stats by hand and it’s way too labor-intensive to be able to study recidivism,” Brady says.
Brady says studying various programs to gauge their effectiveness costs more money than the department normally can afford.
The Probation Department did recently receive a federal grant for its drug court program that required it to study the program’s success.
According to Brady, that study revealed that graduates of Monroe County’s drug court program had a recidivism rate 67 percent lower than those who hadn’t participated in it.
The integrated database system should become operational in about two years, Brady says.
The only authoritative assessment of the department’s effectiveness is mandated by the Indiana Department of Corrections.
INDOC partially funds Monroe County’s combined correctional system and Probation Department and requires it to be audited to show how well it adheres to a set of national benchmarks.
Monroe County was audited in March of this year and earned an “A” grade, scoring 93 of 100. Passing this test marks a corrections department as an Evidence-based Organization. To Brady, this is just a start.
“We really feel like we’re getting started in becoming an evidence-based organization. What we’re doing now is really a journey of trying to become a better department and really have an effect on our citizens. It’s a chance to measure what we’re doing and it’s a really exciting time for us,” Brady says.
Some 5680 people were booked at the Monroe County Correctional Center in 2012 with a total of 248 inmates serving sentences there, according to the Sheriff’s annual report.