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State to Help Disabled Offenders Reintegrate After Prison

A new collaboration between the Indiana Department of Correction and a division of the state’s Family and Social Services Administration is aimed at helping developmentally disabled offenders transition more smoothly to life outside prison.

While the developmentally disabled receive treatment while incarcerated, a new combined effort of the Department of Correction and the Division of Disability and Rehabilitative Services, or DDRS, is meant to help those offenders obtain treatment once they’re outside the prison walls. 

Department of Correction Legislative Director Tim Brown says the two agencies will prepare the developmentally disabled population well ahead of their release.

“So if you need Medicaid eligibility, things of that nature that all correspond and work together – we can do that 180 days to six months prior to release and then it’s a seamless transition back into the community,” Brown said.

Brown says identifying members of the disabled population early in their incarceration is key in preparing them for release. 

Arc of Indiana Executive Director John Dickerson says the state has come a long way in improving its ability to identify the disabled and help get them treatment, but more needs to be done to address those who Dickerson says mask their disability.

“Many people are very street-savvy and cover that up because they’re very articulate but their understanding of what’s going on and how they get there and what’s happening to them may not be all that great,” Dickerson said.

Dickerson says the state also needs to address the differences between county jails and state prisons.  He says the uniformity of standards and care in prison is encouraging, a uniformity he feels is lacking in the state’s diverse system of local jails.

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.