Potter County Criminal Justice Advisory Board (CJAB) members last week put their stamp of approval on a work plan that includes major changes in the local court system. Its overarching goal is to reduce the number of individuals coming into repeated contact with the legal system through an intensive program addressing addiction issues. Initially, the “specialty courts” will address crimes involving alcoholism — DUI, in particular — but its mission is much broader.
Eventually, other criminal defendants diagnosed as addicts involving drugs other than alcohol will be assessed to determine if they are eligible for the specialty court system. New criminal procedures could also be put in place for those with diagnosed mental health issues and military veterans who face unique circumstances as a result of trauma they’ve faced during times of service. Those who are diverted from the traditional criminal court — and potential prison terms and other penalties — will be closely supervised. If they fail to comply with the treatment plan and other requirements, they will be returned to the traditional criminal justice system.
President Judge Stephen Minor is spearheading the specialty court system, in consultation with the CJAB. A work group has been appointed and includes Judge Minor, Senior Judge John Leete, District Attorney Andy Watson, Public Defender Brent Petrosky, Chief Probation Officer John Moshier, Potter County Drug & Alcohol Treatment Services Director Colleen Wilber, Commissioner Paul Heimel, State Police Trooper Michael Delp and Sheriff/Jail Warden Ken Sauley.
Judge Minor detailed the benefits and challenges of the specialty court concept during a presentation at last weekend’s annual convention of the Potter County Association of Township Officials. Commissioner Heimel also discussed the plan, citing statistics on the rapidly rising costs of criminal justice in the county, including a near-doubling of the average inmate count at the jail.
Potter County Today is a timely information site courtesy of the Potter County Commissioners. Reprinted with Permission.