Pitkin County program that keeps inmates out of jail funded
Pitkin County commissioners Wednesday indicated they were willing to provide short-term funding for a program that monitors criminal defendants out of jail on bond.
The pretrial services program provides sobriety monitoring, drug testing and basic case management to defendants released from jail on a monetary bond set by a judge, said Will Sightler, chief probation officer for the 9th Judicial District.
“They need their hands held,” said Don Bird, Pitkin County jail administrator.
In the recent past, Mind Springs Health has been able to fund the program out of its own budget, but that is no longer an option, he said.
“Now they can’t afford it anymore,” Sightler said, adding that the agency has agreed to fund the program through Dec. 31.
However, the program is important enough to the community in that it allows law enforcement and judges to have better information about how it is in jail and who should be in jail, he said.
“Is it the right people in our jails?” Sightler said. “This allows us to look at that.”
Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock called it “basically a diversion program for the jail.”
“It’s an efficient and effective way to provide services without housing someone in jail,” Peacock said.
Garfield County has built a solid pretrial services program, which could absorb Pitkin County’s caseload if commissioners could come up with $45,000 for 2017, Sightler and Bird said. One of the key components of that program is a call reminder service that has resulted in a 55 percent drop in the number of times defendants have failed to appear for court, Sightler said.
Commissioner George Newman suggested funding the program for one year and possibly finding another way to finance it next year through any savings it might provide in other areas.
Commissioner Rachel Richards agreed with the short-term funding idea, saying that Tuesday’s election might provoke “national economic problems” that negate long-term funding for the program.
Commissioner Steve Child also said he was for funding the project because it saves money the county would have to spend housing inmates at the jail.
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