VALPARAISO | The Porter County Council on Tuesday night approved a proposal to save tax dollars and alleviate jail overcrowding by contracting out correctional services for some inmates.
The contract is with Porter County PACT for $147,690 to oversee inmates who would be released from the Porter County Jail and placed on satellite home monitoring systems while awaiting conclusion of their criminal cases.
Porter Superior Court Judge Julia Jent said all inmates would undergo background checks to determine who is eligible for home monitoring and what rehabilitative programs they should participate in.
Some inmates already are placed on home monitoring but more would be placed on home detention and all of them would be overseen by PACT.
It has been reported the county could save nearly $300,000 a year by releasing 30 offenders from the jail into the PACT-supervised program.
Judges after reviewing the background checks would make the final decision on which inmates to release into pretrial home detention.
Satellite tracking devices would help assure inmates don't flee and would show up for their court hearing dates. How many inmates would actually go into the program and total money saved was not known.
''Time will tell,'' said Jent.
Porter County Commissioners must give final approval for PACT to begin the program, which could happen by the first of the year.
''I don't think any one of us doesn't support it,'' said Councilwoman Sylvia Graham.
The council also voted to impose a hiring freeze to get a better handle on spending in the general fund budget. Presently, there are some positions funded last year that have gone unfilled for months, leaving an unexpected surplus but confusion in terms of making sure the budget is being precisely followed.
There is flexibility in the freeze in that any unfilled position or job that suddenly becomes vacant to be filled must go before the council for final approval.
As part of the freeze, the council also ordered a list compiled of all budgeted positions that remain unfilled to help with future hiring decisions and budget preparations.
''We got to get a hold of our general fund. That hurts our budget,'' Graham said.