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Morgan may start corrections program by end of December

By Sheryl Marsh
DAILY Staff Writer

smarsh@decaturdaily.com 340-2437

Morgan County officials are moving on plans to create a community corrections program to limit the jail population.

If they stay on course, the program could start by the end of the year.

County Commission Chairman John Glasscock said he has identified money needed to start the program.

He said the money will come from the law enforcement fund that the county uses for matching funds for drug task force grants.

A federal court consent decree ordering officials to build a new jail also instructed them to develop an alternative sentencing plan, such as a corrections program. The jail is ready, but the commission has been slow to adopt the corrections program.

Judges could sentence those convicted of non-violent, minor crimes to the community program rather than jail them. This would reduce the inmate population and the cost to taxpayers.

The Legislature passed a local bill to create a task force, which is in place.

Also, another local bill created the Morgan County Community Corrections and Court Services Commission, which consists of 10 members.

Circuit Judge Steve Haddock, who is a member, said after the full commission is formed, the next step will be to hire a director.

Other members of the commission will be the sheriff, district attorney, district court judge, circuit clerk and chief probation officer. There will be individual appointments by Decatur, Hartselle and a municipal judge from Falkville, Priceville, Somerville or Trinity. Judges from those townships would rotate on the commission.

Haddock said he checked salaries for a director for the program.

"They varied from $30,000 for directors in small counties to $65,000 or $70,000 for directors in larger counties," Haddock said.

In addition, Haddock said the director would need an office and supplies.

Glasscock suggested two sites for a director's office.

"We'll probably have to have an office here at the courthouse initially," said Glasscock. "But, the new jail has a lot of space, and it could move over there when it opens."

Before hiring a director, officials must draft a job description and advertise for applicants, Haddock said.

Glassock said he is arranging for the director of Shelby County's community corrections program to speak to Morgan officials soon.

He said the director would explain how the program operates there.

While Glasscock said he does not know for sure when the program will begin, he has a goal.

"I would hope that by the end of this calendar year we will have the funding in place and somebody hired," said Glasscock. "I think in the long run it should pay for itself by decreasing the inmate population."

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