PACT’s programs wide-ranging
Last year in Harrison County, there were 81 victims of domestic violence, 32 sexual assaults and compared to 68 and 55 from January to October this year, respectively. Last year, Comfort House Child Sexual Abuse Advocacy calls numbered 21, with 24 calls already this year. In addition, there are five more domestic violence protective orders this year than last. In the past two years, 10,101 hours were contributed by PACT to agencies and organizations to help with victim advocacy.
One organization that helps on both sides of the criminal equation is Hoosier Hills PACT.
The nonprofit Hoosier Hills PACT (Prisoners And Community Together) is a division of PACT Inc., which has been around since the early ’70s but didn’t make its way to Southern Indiana ‘ namely the counties of Orange, Crawford, Harrison and Washington ‘ until 1981. The Harrison County office is located on the second floor of the Harrison County Justice Center.
Kathy Kuss, supervisor of programs for Hoosier Hills PACT, said there are two main divisions of the organization: community corrections and victim advocacy. Jamie Crouse and Michelle Terrell are community corrections coordinators at the Corydon location, while Lindy Coleman is the victim’s advocate.
PACT prides itself on its community correction programs.
‘First and foremost, we are a community justice organization,’ Kuss said. ‘We really believe that crime is a situation that hurts both individuals and the community. What we try to do is allow people to participate in programs that contribute to the community or programs that work to keep them out of prison for an extended period of time and reduce the likelihood that they will commit a crime again.’
Kuss said that she found research that showed the United States incarcerates more people than any other industrialized country in the world, with one out of every 100 people in America either being in jail or under some sort of probationary supervision, with the number jumping to one out of 10 African-American males.
‘What we’ve traditionally done in our correctional facilities doesn’t seem to work all that well, and we try to change that,’ Kuss said.
Some of the programs backed by Hoosier Hills PACT include the Thinking for a Change program, which is a 22-week course ordered either through the probation office or through Harrison Superior Court.
‘The program addresses criminal thinking, which is usually what gets people into trouble,’ Kuss said.
She used an example she once had where someone jailed on burglary charges didn’t believe they were to blame for entering someone’s home. The accused person said it was the homeowner’s fault for leaving a door open.
Prime for Life is a 10-week drug and alcohol education program, which isn’t treatment, but instead a way to help people focus on making positive choices and what the consequences are for abusing drugs and/or alcohol.
Hoosier Hills PACT also offers a women’s program at the Harrison County Jail, providing parenting tips, support group and domestic violence services and a drug and alcohol education program.
For the men, there’s a non-violence program, which runs 27 weeks and is co-facilitated by both a man and a woman to address domestic violence.
‘It’s really important that we model for men that kind of a partnership,’ Kuss said. ‘The program is open-ended, meaning there’s no start or end date, which creates an interesting dynamic. You get men who are there for the first time who are not happy about being there, sitting next to men who have been in the program four or five months telling them to stick with it and to give it a chance.’
The other way Hoosier Hills helps better the community is through victim advocacy programs.
Hoosier Hills PACT offers victim services in six counties ‘ Harrison, Crawford, Orange, Washington, Scott and Lawrence ‘ for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
‘We have a domestic violence shelter in Washington County, where we receive referrals from the prosecutor’s office, law enforcement and other social service providers. Each victim we serve is given a safety assessment,’ Kuss said. ‘Of course, not everyone goes to a shelter, so we have a support group in Washington County on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with one support group going from 11 a.m. to noon and then one in the evening. Child care is provided.’
Kuss said that since there is no support group currently in Harrison County, Hoosier Hills PACT will provide gas vouchers for people who utilize the group.
All of the programs offered by PACT have a nominal fee.
‘We recently received a grant from the Harrison County Community Foundation, which allowed Lindy to go full time in Harrison County, which is a huge, huge positive for the community, because crimes don’t just happen on the schedule of a four-day work week,’ Kuss said.
A 24-hour-a-day crisis hotline, which is always answered by a trained advocate, is maintained by Hoosier Hills PACT at 1-888-883-1959.