A new pilot program to help incarcerated people reenter society will soon begin in Marion County.
The Interdisciplinary Defense System will target individuals who retain a public defender and are incarcerated in the Indiana Department of Correction for less than three years. The program is set to last five years, and is supported by $6 million in grant funding.
It specifically aims to help those who are public defender clients, as the justice system disproportionately impacts low income people. Program participants will have access to their public defender during the entire time of their incarceration, as well as other resources to aid with reentry such as housing.
Normally, public defenders cease providing services once the court process has finished. Incarcerated people must hire a private attorney if they need help with tasks such as seeking compassionate release, child support or custody issues.
“If you don't have the ability to access legal help to access supportive services, you're going to exit incarceration and immediately be hit with all of these issues to be addressed, that are just overwhelming and take time to address,” said Lena Hackett, coordinator of the Marion County Reentry Coalition, which is leading the program alongside other partners. “But the system doesn't give you time.”
The program is set to begin within six months, and will have 700 participants in the first year.
“We’re trying to level the playing field, so that when people exit, they're ready. And they've had the support they need,” Hackett said.