Pubdate: Wed, 09 Jul 2003
Source: Decatur Daily (AL)
Copyright: 2003 The Decatur Daily
Author: Clyde L. Stancil
Bookmark: (Incarceration)
Bookmark: (Treatment)


MOULTON - Convicted felons who are fortunate enough to be placed in 
Lawrence County's fledgling Community Corrections program will have a 
rehabilitation program tailored to their needs.

Though the nonviolent offenders will escape prison, the journey back into 
society's good graces won't be easy, said Coordinator Nena Shelton. "It's 
going to require a lot of their time and effort," she said. "It will be 
intense. A lot of what I see us gaining from this program is 
rehabilitation. That's what you hope to receive, so you won't see them again."

Lawrence County incorporated the program several weeks ago, a requirement 
for receiving $25,000 in seed money from the Alabama Department of 
Corrections, said Lawrence County Circuit Judge Philip Reich.

The people Reich envisions participating in the program don't deserve 
probation, but sending them to prison wouldn't serve any purpose for them 
or the public.

For instance, Reich said it costs taxpayers $25,000 to house one inmate for 
a year. The DOC would recoup its money if one felon successfully completed 
the program.

Reich said eventually he could place up to 25 people in the program at one 

"They're not going to be running around the community," he said. "They will 
either be sitting in (the county) jail for a while or be let out to work. 
They're going to counseling, and they'll be required to perform community 
service and submit samples for drug testing."

A drug prevention and anger management program operated through local 
mental health association Quest will play a large role in the program 
because more than 90 percent of the people on the court dockets have some 
addiction, Reich said.

Shelton said the program will require participants to obtain high school 
diplomas or an equivalent. They also will have curfews.

Corrections officials must approve the felons who participate in the 
program, and will pay the county for each participant. That money, and the 
money that the participants pay for their supervision, will fund the program.

Aside from saving taxpayers money to house non-violent offenders, Reich 
said the program will give him greater control.

"If I send someone off to prison, it's up to the Department of Corrections 
as to when they get out," he said. "As a judge, I have no control over 
that. (Community Corrections) will change that. I think in many cases the 
(felons) will have more success than they will have in the Department of 

Lawrence County is one of 21 counties in Alabama to begin the program. 
Limestone County has an operating program. Reich said it is something that 
every city and state will have to implement in the future, mainly because 
of prison overcrowding.

"I guess the bottom line is we can all do a better job in most cases, and 
corrections is no different," he said. "This will give us better control 
over individuals who have committed crimes, because sooner or later over 90 
percent of them will be back in your county.

"It's real challenging, but I think it's the way eventually we'll need to 
go," Reich said. "It will have a much better success rate than prison. 
There is some risk of failure, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to 
help them."
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