DA searches for alternative to jail

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 16, 2006

In several Alabama circuits, district attorneys and county commissions work together to maintain a program known as Community Corrections.

The program, which allows judges to hand down another option besides prison, may soon be on its way to the 17th circuit.

District Attorney Greg Griggers, whose circuit includes Marengo, Greene and Sumter County, said the program is something his circuit could definitely use to give them an alternative way of dealing with criminals.

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Many times, Griggers said, he sees the same people come through the system time and time again for small crimes. Sentencing them to prison only adds to the Alabama Department of Corrections’ ongoing, and well-publicized, overcrowding problems.

Allowing this program to launch in his circuit, Griggers said, would benefit everyone.

“I do think this can benefit Marengo County and the entire circuit,” Griggers said. “It will give Judge Hardaway another option. Instead of putting them in the department of corrections they can enter this program with someone overlooking them.”

Marengo County Commission Chairman Ken Tucker said he has discussed the program in meetings and those who use it feel it is very beneficial.

“From what I understand, it is an outstanding program,” Tucker said. “Through meetings with the County Commission Association, we have spoken with people who use the program and it has been very well received.”

The benefits of the program, Tucker said, were hard to ignore. He said the commission hoped they could assist Griggers in bringing the program to his circuit.

“We feel like it is a worthwhile program,” Tucker said. “It is something we are interested in pursuing and we hope to work with Greg to do whatever we can to best serve our citizens.”

Griggers said he hopes to speak with the Sumter and Greene Commissions soon.

The Alabama Community Punishment and Corrections Act, which was established in 1991, lists several goals for their program including:

uTo promote accountability of offenders to their local community by requiring direct financial restitution to be made to victims of crime and that community service be made to local governments and community agencies representing the community;

uTo provide a safe, cost efficient, community punishment and correctional program which provides punishments through the development of a range of sanctions and community services available for the judge at sentencing;

uTo reduce the number of offenders committed to correctional institutions and jails by punishing such offenders in alternative punishment settings;

uTo provide opportunities for offenders demonstrating special needs to receive services that enhance their abilities to provide for their families and become contributing members of their community; and

uTo encourage the involvement of local officials and leading citizens in their local punishment and correctional system.

Only certain offenders are eligible for the program, according to the act. The act states persons who, without this option, would be incarcerated in a correctional institution or who are currently incarcerated in a correctional institution; and persons who are convicted of misdemeanors.