News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


County lethargic, others zealous about corrections

The mentality of locking up inmates is growing stale throughout the state as judicial officials latch on to community corrections.

That is evidenced by the zeal of judges in other counties who are taking key roles in starting programs such as drug court that would keep non-violent defendants out of prison.

County commissions and judges in St. Clair and Talladega counties are eager to support community corrections. St. Clair Circuit Judge Jim Hill told The Daily Home that currently the county has drug court and other components, which would be part of community corrections. Hill said it's helping people with substance abuse problems while lowering the jail population there.

St. Clair District Attorney Richard Minor said programs that give drug offenders a general education diploma and drug counseling reduce the chances of them going back to the courtroom.

Talladega Circuit Judges Julian King and Bo Hollingsworth and county commissioners there find community corrections attractive, also.

Judge King said a drug court would dramatically reduce the jail population. He said funding for the program would be tough to get, but the county needs community corrections.

It sounds like these officials really want to get help for people rather than to throw them in prison.

Although the Morgan County Commission followed a federal court consent decree and started community corrections, all officials involved don't appear to be enthusiastic about the program.

For instance, Circuit Judge Steve Haddock, vice chairman of the Community Corrections and Court Services Commission, once stated that he didn't have "any love" for such a program.

Later he said he was not against community corrections, but some of his subsequent statements are reflective of what he said the first time.

When the director, whom the commission hired to start Morgan community corrections, gave a progress report two weeks ago, Judge Haddock said he would not favor giving repeat offenders who have been on probation another chance at freedom.

That kind of attitude could hinder the success of alternative sentencing and could ultimately cause the program to flop.

On the other hand, when officials are positive like those in St. Clair and Talladega, the results will more than likely result in rehabilitated citizens and a decreased jail population.


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