News From Terre Haute, Indiana

February 28, 2013

Sequester not seen as hampering public safety here — yet

Lisa Trigg
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Public safety is a big concern if automatic federal spending cuts take effect on Friday.

On a local level, however, state and local funding provide a majority of the budgets for police, courts and corrections.

In a survey of county agencies that provide public safety and court services, little to no effect of the “sequester” were anticipated as losses of services or funding.

Sheriff Greg Ewing reported that the sequester will “not effect any of our operations.”

Vigo County Community Corrections also reports no effect.

Director Bill Watson said community corrections receives some funding from the Indiana Department of Correction, but also operates on user fees paid by offenders.

At the Vigo County Drug Court, coordinator Paul Southwick said that all of that program’s funding for the year has already been received, so he forsees no immediate impact of the sequester. Southwick noted that the program receives funding through the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute and the Indiana Supreme Court Administration, as well as through user fees.

The Terre Haute Police Department has received federal grants in the past.

In 2009, THPD was able to hire six officers through the Community Oriented Policing Services program. Those funds have now gone away and the officers are part of the regular department budget.

But Lt. Hugh Crawford said THPD still depends on a federal grant through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program.

Last year, THPD received $15,781, with the majority of the funds earmarked to purchase a boat for response to incidents and investigations on the Wabash River. Also, about $3,500 of the funds received last year will be allocated to the Vigo County Drug and Alcohol Program to assist with the diversion program.

At the federal prison on the city’s southwest side, some cutbacks may be coming.

The Department of Justice issued a broad statement about the impact of the sequester, but did not give a breakdown of the impact on individual facilities.

At the Terre Haute Federal Correctional Complex, 1,503 inmates are housed in the high-security prison, according to the Bureau of Prisons website. Another 1,144 inmates are housed in the medium-security institution while another 411 inmates are housed in the camp facility.

“The Justice Department is acutely concerned about staff and inmate safety should sequestration occur,” according to the statement. “Sequestration would mean $338 million less for the Bureau of Prison’s budget, but would not reduce the nearly 218,000 inmates in BOP custody. All of BOP’s staff would be subject to possible furlough should cuts of the sequestration’s magnitude hit BOP. “

“To the extent possible, BOP will schedule the potential furloughs to minimize the disruption within the prison facilities and will always maintain a minimum level of staff for security purposes. Prison operations will be affected, however, and intermittent partial or full lock-downs may be required. BOP will need to curtail inmate programs such as drug treatment and vocational education, which would lead to higher costs to taxpayers and communities in the long run as the lack of such inmate re-entry training makes it less likely that released inmates will be successful at reintegration into society upon their release.  While the Justice Department is considering what steps can be taken to aid BOP, none of the Department’s actions can mitigate the severity of every cut faced by BOP.”

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.