During Monday (Nov. 13) night’s County Commission meeting, a motion to discuss Jackson County Community Corrections was presented.

Commissioner Jason Venable made a motion to go into executive session.  Following the executive session the board recessed until Thursday morning at 10:30, at which time they intended to meet with the Alabama Department of Corrections.  
 Commissioner Tim Guffey began the meeting by stating “After two years of investigating, we found that it would be better for the county to take over community corrections.” County Attorney, John Porter stated, “We started two years ago working with Mike and Brandon to get information, after a request was made to the commission. A request was made and very little information was given. We have worked on that for more than a year. About this time last year, we went to Community Corrections and requested that they cooperate with us, allowing us to do an audit. The county has very little authority. We do get funds from Community Corrections, so we asked for an audit to determine whether or not the money we were getting was accurate, as well as to look at some other aspects.  We acquired a CPA to do that and records were provided to him. Our CPA worked with their CPA. The short of it is, our auditor was not able to get the records that he needed to verity the Commission was receiving the funds that they were supposed to receive. So, he said  he could not do a true forensic audit without  a huge expense on the Commission’s part. But, he had some initial findings and provided them to the County, that basically said he couldn’t do an audit. Since the county has little authority over Community Corrections, the way it’s established now. That’s a short summary of what we’ve been doing.”
Commissioner Jason Venable stated, “If this is what we decide to do, the Department of Corrections, can they lay out the steps that need to be taken for the county to be able to take this over and run it?”
Alabama Department of Corrections Deputy Commissioner Jeff Williams stated “There are basically three ways. The County Commission  can operate a Community Corrections  program as part of county government with county employees; the County could set up an authority; the other way, the way it is currently set up is a nonprofit can set up and run program. The way it is set up now, the county can defer. There are about 49 of 67 counties with community corrections programs, with the majority being run by a nonprofit. If in fact you go in that directions, it would be the end of the basic contract year, roughly beginning October 1.”  Williams also went over other counties’ programs and the various choices the county has. Williams explained if the program has malfunctions or instabilities that would ultimately affect their ability to provide support to those state offenders, of which he said there are approximately 112. Williams explained there has to be transition plan in place and whatever changes do occur that new program would have to submit a plan to the Department of Corrections  for approval.
Circuit Judge Jenifer Holt stated,  “There’s more than just the approval of the program. I don’t think there would be a participant in the program unless the sentencing Judge authorized that person to participate in the program. So, even though you may have a program, and correct me if I’m wrong,  I think if you don’t have the sentencing Judge approve the person to participate in that program, it’s not going to happen and you’re not going to have participants.”
Williams stated, “Judge you’re absolutely correct. When a county submits a plan we ask for proof of local support. If the judge does not sentence, that’s the only way a defendant from the state side can get into community corrections. Previously there were only two sentencing options, probation and DOC. We added in the third option of CC. There’s no way you get to either of those except the court sentences you. While there is a community corrections  program, if the court does not sentence, there’s no way to get there.  So another key element is the support of the courts, the support of the DA, the support of the Sheriffs, and of course you have to see support of the county commission.”
Holt stated, “I would like to add we’ve had a Community Corrections  program since the commission unanimously  approved the program in 1998. I’ve not heard one complaint, if there are, I’d like to hear what they are. I’ve been a judge for 21 years. What are the complaints? Can anyone shed light on what the complaints are?”
Guffey stated, “I’ve heard just about everyone in law enforcement, not just ours, state that they don’t feel the program is ran correctly and needed a change.”
Holt responded, “To me as a sentencing Judge, I take my job very seriously,  and when I put a felon out on the street, living at home, as opposed to sending them to prison, I want to make sure they’re not a threat to the other people in the county.  The people that run CC have been doing it since 1998. I trust their program, because I’ve not had it fail for me. I’ve not heard any law enforcement complaint about the CC program. If there are specific complaints, I’d like to hear what they are.”  Holt added, “The years experience that the Browns have in running this program is invaluable. It is a trust factor with the sentencing judge, that we know when we send someone through this program, they’re going to be supervised closely. If you don’t have that trust in the program, you’re worrying a lot.”
Brandon Brown, Director of Jackson County Court Referral,  explained that everyone who pays to monitor, $40 is charged, the state gets $30 and $10 goes into a separate account for the County Commission, per paid monitoring.
Porter explained, “No plan was ever presented to the county for approval, not then up to today. It never occurred.  The Community Corrections plan that was supposed to have been approved in 1998, didn’t happen. I think since then we’ve received a couple of plans from around 2007. Based upon that, we’ve began asking other questions. That’s where we are from the county’s stand point.
A motion was made to table the item for review until December 4.
 In December, 2016, Commissioners discussed and approved a conditional Letter of Support for Jackson County Community Corrections. The letter is required by Department of Corrections annually. In addition to providing the letter of support, the Jackson County Commission requested a full audit be performed on Community Corrections. County Attorney John Porter recommended that the Letter of Support provided be conditional upon an audit being performed within 90 days.
 

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