36° and Clear at 3:54am in Pine City

Pine Co. Puts Stimulus Money to Work

Monday, October 5th, 2009 at 5:51 am

Pine County Jail in cooperation with Pine County Probation recently received grant as part of the Federal Recovery Act in an award of $153,336 over two years.  Pine County is very fortunate to be a recipient of these very competitive grant awards.  The funds will be used in Pine County to meet the following goals:

1. Assist rural law enforcement with community supervision of pre-trial offenders usually released with conditions related to crime-free and substance-free behavior.
2. Preserve a probation agent position approved by the Pine County Board but not filled due to the economic recession factors.
3. Promote economic recovery through education and awareness by expanding jail chemical and mental health programming so offenders integrating back into the community leave with the tools needed to attain jobs and keep them.

It is part of the Pine County Jail’s Mission Statement to provide those incarcerated with education, behavior management, and various program opportunities designed to improve their ability to return as productive members of society.   Almost $ 40,000 of the grant will be used to meet this mission.

Of the amount going to the jail, $20,000 will be dedicated towards mental health.  Currently the Jail provides mental health services to the inmates on a crisis-intervention basis.  The Grant funds will allow the Jail to contract for on-site mental health services that will not only include crisis intervention but also ongoing mental health management.  Services provided may include:  psychological evaluations, medication needs, mental health therapy, stabilization plans, and mental health symptom reduction.  These enhanced services will positively impact the Jail and the community by reducing transportation costs associated with obtaining these services outside of the facility and by providing a safer environment for staff, inmates and the community.

The remaining $19,686 will provide training and educational videos, textbooks, workbooks and informational pamphlets as well as audio visual equipment for the Pine County Jail, Jail Programs and the inmate library.  The grant funds provided will enhance an already extensive volunteer based jail programming department that currently has over 45 community volunteers who educate inmates through the following classes:  Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Anger Resolution, Personal Relations, Parenting, GED classes and numerous spiritual based programs.

The bulk of the grant will go to enhance pre-trial services through Pine County Probation.  In November 2008 the Pine County Board had approved a probation agent to do pre-trial programming with the anticipation that a probation fee increase on January 1st would cover the position.   A one-time correctional fee of anywhere from $ 60 to $ 720 is assessed to offenders for each case based upon the length of probation.  However before anyone was hired, the probation director and local judges decided to postpone filling the position.  This was to allow time to see what impact the recession would have on collection of the fees and receipt of other state corrections revenue.   The opportunity to apply for the Federal grant came along at just the right time.  The economy has impacted fee collection as more offenders have had to set up payment plans, often at $ 10 per month, so it will take much longer to receive payment in full.  With two years of grant assistance to jump start the program, the county will be able to gain momentum with the fee increase and be able to sustain the pre-trial position after the grant dollars disappear.

The pre-trial programming will include bail evaluations, pre-sentence investigations, supervision of offenders pending resolution of their court matters, and coordination of the electronic monitoring program.   The grant will cover the agent’s salary, benefits, equipment, mileage, and training.   The advantage of the pre-trial supervision is that law enforcement will have the information at their fingertips to know what defendants have pre-trial release conditions.  This allows an immediate response to those defendants who are violating their conditions of release ultimately enhancing public safety.  Those release conditions will most frequently be related to drinking or using illegal drugs and contact with victims when the individual was ordered not to.

Eric Hermes, currently a county juvenile probation agent, will be taking over the pre-trial program as soon as a replacement is found to fill his juvenile caseload.  The opportunity to have an agent who has already established relationships in the local criminal justice system and is familiar with local resources will allow the pre-trial program to have a running start.   The program should be ready to go before the end of November.

(From Pine Co. Probation)

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