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Day reporting center could save county money

Sheriff outlines plan that could serve as alternative to incarceration for some

November 18, 2011|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com
  • Sheriff Doug Mullendore and Franklin County's Day Reporting Center Director Kim Eaton answer questions about a proposed day reporting system for Washington County.
By Yvette May/Staff Photographer

Operating a day reporting center in Washington County could cost more than $1.4 million per year, but might save the county $1.8 million annually over the cost of incarcerating nonviolent offenders with drug and alcohol addictions, Sheriff Douglas W. Mullendore said Friday.

Mullendore met Friday with a group of circuit and district court judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, law enforcement and elected officials to outline his plan for a center to treat up to 150 offenders at a time.

The primary savings would be the lower cost of providing drug and alcohol testing and treatment and other services at a day reporting center as opposed to incarceration, Mullendore said. The per-day cost of jailing a person is $60 per day, as opposed to $26.24 per day at a day reporting center, he said.

To be eligible to be assigned to the center, a person would have to meet the following criteria, Mullendore said:

  • Be a Washington County resident.
  • Be a nonviolent offender.
  • Have a history of drug or alcohol abuse.
  • Have a stable residence with a land-line phone and access to transportation.
  • Be employed or willing to seek employment.
  • Be in compliance with a predetermined curfew.
  • Wear an electronic monitor in the initial stage of the program.
Kim Eaton, executive director of the Franklin County Day Reporting Center, attended the courthouse meeting to answers questions about that center, which is operated by a contractor that runs similar centers across the United States.

The center opened in 2006 and the completion rate for the program, which runs six or more months for each individual, is 73 percent, Eaton said. The recidivism rate — those committing new crimes or being reincarcerated — is 18 percent, she said.

That is well below national recidivism figures, Eaton said.

Those admitted to the program include inmates who have served a minimum of two-thirds of their jail sentence, those sent to the program from the Probation Department and offenders sentenced directly by the courts, Eaton said.

During the first phase of the program, offenders report to the center six days a week and undergo random drug and alcohol testing at least once a week, a figure that decreases as they meet individual goals, Eaton said. Offenders also can receive mental health counseling, life skills training, GED preparation classes and other services, she said.

Mullendore said the center could have the added benefit of delaying expansion of the detention center by diverting some offenders from jail into day reporting. Courts could sentence offenders to incarceration, but allow them to serve it at the center.

A center would have to be approved by the county commissioners, Mullendore said. No site has been identified, but suggested downtown Hagerstown, in part because many offenders would have difficulty getting transportation to a site outside the city.

"I think it's a workable idea," County Commissioner Jeffrey A. Cline said after the meeting. The center has the potential to turn people with drug and alcohol problems into productive citizens and save taxpayers' money with a program that costs less than incarceration, he said.

"It's not a program for first offenders," Judge M. Kenneth Long Jr. said during the meeting. People in the program have to show "they are ready to do the things that need to be done" to change their lives, he said.

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