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Branchville earns top awards

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BRANCHVILLE – Branchville Correctional Facility officials learned Thursday they have earned the Indiana Department of Correction Facility of the Year award, the highest honor given during annual Indiana Correctional Association conferences.

Also, Janet Drach, a literacy and special-education teacher with more than 20 years’ service, became the second teacher in four years from Branchville to earn the Indiana Department of Correction Teacher of the Year award.

The honors are “a true reflection of our staff at Branchville Correctional Facility and the dedication they show every day,” said Gil Peters, superintendent of the medium-security facility.

“They take great pride in not only their jobs but also in using innovative thinking to deliver our services in a cost-effective way.

The facility award focused on cost saving measures, re-entry efforts and innovative ideas implemented at the facility.

Following is the nomination narrative submitted to judges:

Since its inception Branchville has been proud of its role within the Department of Correction and its relationship with the surrounding communities. During the past two years this has been elevated to a new level with the relationships forged through the therapeutic communities, (Purposeful Living Units Serve) Program and religious services.

The mission statement of the Branchville Correctional Facility is to increase public safety and reduce recidivism by providing work skills opportunities and reentry programming that better emulates a functioning society.

Branchville currently has two therapeutic communities with the capacity to serve 480 offenders. In 2006, we began a dialogue with Judge Wayne Trockman of Vanderburgh Superior Court regarding working closer with the court system in the sentencing, incarceration and treatment of men with drug abuse issues. Out of this interaction the program, Incarceration with Purpose was created. The concept of this program is that county judges work closely with the Department of Correction by identifying individuals in their system with a drug problem that would be better served with intensive in-patient drug treatment. Once identified, the facility is given the individual’s name and we in turn contact central office for placement within the therapeutic community. As the offender works the program the court system stays in close contact with the facility as to his treatment and progress. Upon completion, the sentencing judge will then evaluate the individual for a sentence modification and placement into his or her re-entry or problem-solving court.

At the present time there have been 104 referrals from nine different counties. Superintendent Peters and staff have visited almost all of the D.O.C correctional facilities’ community advisory boards and shared information in regards to this program. In addition, this program was referred to in the last ACA conference by Commissioner Buss. Incarceration with Purpose is an excellent example of a facility and the courts working together for the successful rehabilitation and re-entry of an individual back into society. It is estimated that due to reduction of sentencing that is directly related to this project that the facility has saved the taxpayers approximately $300,000.

Since its establishment, the PLUS Program at Branchville has been actively involved with the community. Offenders regularly participate in community involvement by donating labor, their talents and raising money for various charitable endeavors. For the past three years the program has maintained an organic garden with all produce donated to community food banks, elderly housing and sustenance programs. In 2009, 8,626 pounds of produce were donated and more than 8,000 pounds have been donated to the community this year. Offenders in this program regularly conduct fund drives to raise money for donation to nonprofit and community organizations such as Villages of Indiana, American Cancer Society, Perry County Child Services, area high-school after-prom programs, Wee Ones nursery, etc. So far in 2010, the PLUS program has donated $5,100 to these organizations. The PLUS Program also spearheaded a bus cleaning project where the school systems in Perry and Crawford County brought their buses to the facility and they were detailed for the upcoming school year.

Offenders at the facility participated in fundraisers for donations to local elementary schools to help fund projects that may have been cut due to budgetary reductions. A total of $5,225 was donated to schools in Perry, Spencer and Crawford counties the past school year.

Another example of community involvement and cooperation is through our Religious Services Department. Volunteers are actively involved in all aspects of religious services from Bible study to conducting worship services. The facility conducts Kairos and Residents Encountering Christ weekends twice a year. Both programs are completely run by community volunteers with no cost to the facility. Both programs have also been attributed to promoting positive well-being within the offender population. In August the facility conducted its second tent revival. This revival was conducted for six days and served over 3,700 offenders throughout 13 sessions. With the coordination by our Religious Services Department, community volunteers conducted the revival at no cost to the facility, yet reached approximately one quarter of our daily offender population.

Branchville was selected to participate in a pilot program to reduce medical emergencies of diabetic offenders. The program entailed classes and special attention given to diabetic offenders to reduce their A1C test score. The program has reduced medical emergencies and the initial data indicates a dramatic improvement in A1C scores.

The staff of Branchville manages the facility through a strategic plan that has been developed through comprehensive interaction with each department head. The facility’s strategic plan is carefully designed to not only meet the needs of the facility specifically, but also mirror the agency’s plan. In order to track the plan a detailed system of metrics is designed for monthly monitoring. The metrics are regularly used throughout the daily management of the facility. They are updated monthly and posted in each department’s area and on the facility scoop monitor to ensure maximum exposure for both staff and visitors. Metrics measure 15 major key indicators with numerous supporting indicators.

In 2007, metrics were established to track the usage of water, electricity, sewage and liquid propane. Once a baseline was determined, a facility objective was developed to decrease utility usage. Within two years overall utility usage at the facility decreased by approximately 5 percent. In 2009, a stun fence, high-mast lighting and a new camera system were installed. The offender population also increased. The tracking system has proven to be beneficial in keeping costs as low as is feasible.

In order to instill pride and a sense of teamwork a systematic approach to dorm inspections has been established. A minimum and optimal score were set and then each housing unit is inspected by the superintendent and custody supervisor on a weekly basis. Each week the housing units are scored and then averaged quarterly. All of the offenders in the dormitory with the highest average scores receive a reward for their hard work. All scores are tracked with the metrics and each dorm’s scores are posted for all to see. Not only does this program allow for a healthier, cleaner living area, but it also provides the superintendent and the custody supervisor the opportunity to observe every offender over a two-week period.

Branchville has regularly partnered with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and provided road crews for the various state and federal parks in southwest Indiana. In the past year we elevated our partnership to a new level. Utilizing native trees and offender labor we established a sawmill operation with equipment provided by DNR.

Branchville now cuts and builds cabins that are being placed in various state parks for rent. This project established offender jobs and provided DNR. rental buildings at minimal cost.

The facility has the second highest offenders-to-staff ratio for Level 2 facilities (the only Level 2 facility that has a higher ratio is the GEO managed New Castle facility). The facility also reduced point 1 expenditures between $25,000 and $30,000 biweekly over the past fiscal year.

This is an annual reduction in expenditures of between $650,000 and $780,000.

The facility operates fiscally responsibly with the focus on re-entry through the development of a strong work ethic in the offender population that is grounded in personal growth.