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Day Report Center to hold roundtable discussion

Session will be Sept. 7 at the Ranson (W.Va.) Civic Center

September 02, 2010|By RICHARD F. BELISLE
  • Joseph P. Sacchet
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MARTINSBURG, W.Va.-- There's room for a lot more clients at the Berkeley/Jefferson Day Report Center, a program that saves tax money by keeping those charged with crimes out of jail, its director said this week.

The center, at 406 S. Raleigh St., opened in October 2009 with the capacity to handle up to 45 adults charged with nonviolent felony and misdemeanor offenses, said Joseph P. Sacchet, who runs the facility.

"Right now, we have 18 clients," Sacchet said. "I've got room for 45. We need the community and the courts to know we're here."

One way Sacchet hopes to ratchet up interest in his center and its programs is through a roundtable discussion for judges, magistrates, prosecutors, public defenders, private defense attorneys and law enforcement officials in the 23rd Judicial Circuit, which covers Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson counties.

The session will be Sept. 7 at 9:30 a.m. at the Ranson (W.Va.) Civic Center. Its theme is "Keeping our Jail Costs Down and Turning Lives Around -- It all Makes Sense."

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James Lee, chief probation officer for the First Judicial Circuit in Hancock, Brooke and Ohio counties in the state's Northern Panhandle, will be the featured speaker at the event.

Lee was instrumental in starting the day-reporting program in West Virginia, Sacchet said. There are now 24 centers in the state.

The Berkeley/Jefferson center is funded by the West Virginia Community Corrections Grant Program, plus matching funds from the two counties. Morgan County is considering referring clients to the center, Sacchet said.

Clients are charged $100 for each month they are in the program, plus $10 for each drug test.

"It works out pretty good. They pay when they can," Sacchet said.

His first-year budget is $45,000, he said, which is enough to nearly triple the amount of clients his center currently serves.

The alternative sentencing program has two goals: to save the counties $48 a day for each nonviolent offender they keep out of jail, and to enable the offenders to get their lives straightened out and eventually walk away without a criminal record.

Most offenders have bouts with the law because of drug and alcohol abuse, Sacchet said.

The center's programs include Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings, anger management, counseling for drug and alcohol abuse, problem gambling counseling, life skills, individual and group therapy, and community service.

Some clients have been convicted and many -- about 60 percent -- are referred to the center, where they can avoid conviction if they complete its programs, Sacchet said.

Their crimes include substance abuse, larceny, robbery, prescription fraud, drug possession and/or distribution, prostitution and embezzlement, Sacchet said.

The center provides close supervision, requires random drug testing and ensures that clients follow the rules set by the courts.

Magistrates are the center's "main feeder," Sacchet said.

The center has two full-time employees in addition to Sacchet. Mary Newlin is the case manager and day-report officer. There also is an office manager.

The center contracts with outside counselors.

So far, the rate of failure by offenders who enter the program has been less than 10 percent, Sacchet said. Those who fail are returned to the courts, he said.

A second educational program is scheduled for Oct. 11 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Purple Iris at Hartwood Mansion, 1956 Winchester Ave. in Martinsburg.

Speakers will be members of the circuit's judiciary and law enforcement agencies. The program will focus on the services provided by Community Alternatives to Violence and the day-report center.

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