A probation officer in Bartholomew County has been hired as the director of the new Jefferson County Community Corrections department. She was chosen by the program's advisory group and affirmed Thursday by the county commissioners.

Amber Finnegan, the director of the new program, has worked most of the last 10 years in community corrections.

She received a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice, with honors, in 2001 from Indiana University/Purdue University in Columbus and Indianapolis.

She has worked for Bartholomew County since being an intern in the adult probation department from May 2000 to May 2001.

Community corrections will include a drug court, work release and other alternatives to jail for nonviolent offenders.

It also will include services for nonviolent criminals who have mental illness or addictive disorder.

Finnegan was introduced to the county commissioners by Superior Court Judge Alison Frazier and Circuit Judge Ted Todd. Finnegan's office will be in the county's Wilson Building, which houses the probation department.

The county commissioners voted in October 2009 to authorize formation of the community corrections program. The judges and Prosecutor Chad Lewis will set up the program, and the advisory group will administer it.

In April, the county received a $200,826 grant from the Indiana Department of Correction to pay for the program. Frazier told commissioners Tom Pietrykowski and Julie Berry that community corrections will not cost the county anything. After the program is established, offenders' fees will pay for the program.

Finnegan's $42,000 salary and benefits estimated to be worth $5,800 will be paid with the grant, Frazier said.

Community corrections programs are intended to keep people out of jail by having alternatives such as work release, home detention and electronic monitoring and day reporting for adults, and other alternatives for juveniles. The programs also offer skills for re-entry into the outside world for people who are sent to jail or prison. A majority of Indiana counties already have community corrections programs.