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Friday, August 19, 2016

Strategic Planning For County’s ‘Smart Justice’ Programs

Potter County Today

Over the past two years, Potter County has established specialty courts for those with addiction to alcohol and other drugs, as well as a Women’s Residential Recovery Center. Most recently, county leaders have signed on for a state partnership to develop a pilot pre-trial diversion program for those men and women coming into contact with the criminal justice system. 

Overarching goal for each of these reforms is to reduce the number of jail inmates by addressing issues such as addiction, employability and life skills. But each reform requires county resources — including funding, personnel and facilities. To coordinate the new initiatives with the resources, Potter County Board of Commissioners Chairman Doug Morley has pulled together the affected parties for strategic planning sessions. Among the county departments directly affected are the Judiciary, District Attorney, Probation, Sheriff/Jail Warden Office, Public Defender and Human Services.

More than one-third of the county’s $9.3 annual budget is dedicated to criminal justice expenses, including $1.4 million for operation of the Potter County Jail, $680,000 for Probation, and $345,000 for the District Attorney’s Office. The county has recently become engaged in the “Smart Justice” concept, an initiative launched by the National Association of Counties (NACo) to prepare counties for changes in criminal justice administration. More information on the Smart Justice campaign can be found here.


Federal and state funding, as well as financial support from foundations, are becoming increasingly available to help counties that are pursuing reforms. Technical assistance is also available. Potter County Commissioner Paul Heimel has been monitoring developments and making contacts through his membership on justice/criminal justice panels through both NACo and the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania. 

He was appointed to a state task force charged with developing a blueprint for changes in state laws and funding streams related to the Smart Justice concepts — particularly as they pertain to offenders who are mentally ill and/or have addictions to alcohol or other drugs. Results of that panel’s six-month-long study are now available online here. A formal presentation to Governor Tom Wolf, legislative leaders and Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel is planned for later this month.

Meanwhile, Potter County’s DUI and Drug Court Treatment Team has researched specialty courts in other counties and attended specialized training. President Judge Stephen Minor and Senior Judge John Leete have played significant roles in pursuing the specialty court options for offenders who meet eligibility criteria. Most recently, 

the county signed on for a National Institute of Corrections training module offered by the University of Cincinnati Corrections Institute for the pilot pre-trial diversion program. For details, click here. Funding for that initiative, which is being pursued on a preliminary/experimental basis, was approved by the Pa. Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

6 comments :

Anonymous said...

Look at the bar graph, of course they are going to put out a graph like that, it makes their program look successful so they can get more funding. That's more of your tax dollars going into their pocket. As government employees that's the only way they can progress and get raises and money. Don't give them more money, make them earn what they are getting now.
Don't fall for it, shut them down NOW.

Anonymous said...

Friday, August 19, 2016 at 5:41:00 PM EDT <<< Show me the program doesn`t work. Sounds sour grapes to me.

Anonymous said...

The Potter County "powers-that-be" never miss a chance to remind us plebians of their wonderfulness, do they?

Anonymous said...

Agree with 5.41. Also what will happen to the drunks and druggies when they find out the jail experience can now be avoided, a creation of circumstances that will encourage, not deter the crimes against society which is already rampant. It will take more than a treatment program to discourage the behavior cycle, especially of alcoholics who are rarely able or willing to give up the bottle,especially if there is no possible deterrent. Money? Yes very costly. Will it work or will it pad pockets of politicians, I guess time will tell, certainly our comments and concerns won't be relevant to decisions made in the upper echelons of those who spend our tax dollars.

Anonymous said...

you can bet these politicans will find away to line their pockets with your tax dollars.Of course there are lots of people that like the idea because they get more back from the taxpayer than they contribute.So bend over if you actually pay taxes.That is why we are in the shape we are in .The one's at the bottom and top do not pay taxes.They have no skin in the game.Good luck changing it because the are all crooks

Anonymous said...

I read this article and was encouraged that the criminal justice system was finally waking up to the fact that what we've been doing for many years doesn't work. Then I started reading the comments and it appears the public would prefer "Stupid Justice." Really, people? Really?