By Desiree Williams
With more than 25 years of experience as the director of Hamilton County Community Corrections, Ralph Watson has a new challenge. In August, Gov. Eric Holcomb appointed Watson to the new Jail Overcrowding Task Force.
Watson is joined by Tracy Brown, Tippecanoe County commissioner, and Doug Huntsinger, deputy director of the Indiana Commission to Combat Drug Abuse.
“My role is to look at what are some of the options that (community corrections) can do to help alleviate any challenges that various counties might be facing,” said Watson, a Carmel resident.
The state established the task force to perform a statewide investigation of jail overcrowding and identify possible solutions. The task force also will study how to reduce repetition of offenders through alternative programs for mental health and substance abuse treatment and/or educational training.
In Hamilton County, Watson oversees the Community Corrections department’s residential and electronic monitoring programs for adults, which offer an alternative to incarceration. The programs include supervision to and from work and individualized treatment or education plans for offenders.
“We’re designed to serve individuals that need more supervision than traditional probation can provide but do not need to be incarcerated 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he said. “If we were not there, many of those individuals that would need more supervision than traditional probation would end up being incarcerated.”
Watson said the task force is in the organization and planning stage. The next step is to conduct public meetings to gather data and first-hand knowledge from local communities. The legislation allows for up to five regional meetings.
The task force, which serves until Dec. 31, is required to submit its findings by Dec. 1.