News from the Tennessee Valley State, Local and National news
FRIDAY, MAY 11, 2007

Jail to start inmate cuts next month
Officials to screen prisoners for Community Corrections

By Sheryl Marsh 340-2437

The Morgan County Jail population could start decreasing as early as next month as officials plan to start screening inmates for a Community Corrections program.

The state is giving the county $98,530 to help fund the program. In addition, the county will receive $50,000 from the state for drug treatment.

During a meeting Thursday of the Community Corrections/Court Services Commission, Director Alison Nix gave an update on the program's status.

Nix said the commission hired a case manager and an administrative assistant, but she needs another administrative employee. She explained that initially she thought one employee could do administrative duties and perform drug testing, but found that it's too much for one person.

Nix said they have been shadowing Limestone County officials to see how they operate their corrections program.

She provided commission members with a list of possibly eligible county jail inmates.

Sheriff Greg Bartlett, who is a member of the commission, explained that all inmates on the list might not be eligible.

"Eligibility would depend on the history of their appearance in the court," Bartlett explained. "Some have numerous failure-to-appear charges. The report doesn't necessarily show all the charges. They might have a possession-of-cocaine charge that they bonded out on, but it doesn't show a meth lab charge that's connected."

Another example is that one inmate on the list is awaiting transfer to a mental facility once a bed is open.

In accordance with the state funding, Nix said, the state Department of Corrections requires 60 inmates to be in the program during a 12-month period.

Vice Chairman and Circuit Judge Steve Haddock said he wants a lot of people in the program who have drug/alcohol problems.

The referrals to Community Corrections could be before prison for prevention or after prison for diversion.

Haddock said he's looking at possibly bringing two inmates he sentenced to prison out and placing them in the program if they meet the requirements of a 10-point qualifying system. He said the two inmates' crimes were victimless.

Nix said one of the employees in her office is going to Denver for drug testing training in a couple of weeks and when she returns, the drug testing equipment will be available.

Haddock said the courts would probably start sending referrals by June 1.

"We're trying to get everything in place so that by the end of the month we're up and running," Haddock said.

He added that criminal court would be in progress at that time and some referrals could come then.

Each program participant would have to pay fees for drug testing and other services as they become available.

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