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Editorial: Day Reporting program at jail could be sensible solution

The Carroll County Board of Commissioners should approve submitting a grant application to the Governor's Office of Crime, Control and Prevention to create a Day Reporting Center in Carroll County for nonviolent offenders.

Last week, Sheriff Jim DeWees and Warden George Hardinger spoke about the possibility to the commissioners and the board, after continued discussion, could vote as soon as today whether to submit the application. The deadline to submit the application for up to $540,000 in grant funds is May 31.

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Creating a day program could save the county money by not jailing nonviolent offenders, eliminating the need for a second minimum security facility in the future, while also getting these individuals treatment, plus education and job training.

Jail isn't always the best option for lower-level offenders, who in most cases need treatment for drug and alcohol addiction issues that led to their crimes in the first place. The day reporting program would have qualifying offenders live at home but report to the jail on a regular basis for drug and alcohol testing, counseling, therapy, treatment and job training.

Certainly, there is a cost associated with implementing such a program, and even if the county received the entire $540,000 in grant money in the first year, it likely wouldn't cover the full cost of a day reporting program and would likely drop to about $350,000 in 2018 and 2019. County government will have to foot the rest of the bill and whatever costs there are going forward.

But all indications are that the county is going to have to find a solution to this, and other coming issues at the detention center sooner rather than later.

The Justice Reinvestment Act, approved by the state legislature in April, lowers the length of sentences for low-level crimes, sending offenders who would have previously been sent to state prison to the local detention center instead. Starting a day reporting program now would put Carroll in a good position to handle potential overcrowding at the jail created by this new law.

DeWees and Hardinger also believe the state might be moving toward a model of treatment for low-level offenders anyway, so this could also put Carroll ahead of the curve there.

Better to get grant money and start a program now than wait on a state mandate.

Already, the county is spending hundreds of thousands from its annual reserves to house inmates in Washington County's detention center to alleviate overcrowding at the local jail. And a previously discussed minimum security facility could be quite an expensive undertaking.

Meanwhile, officials noted that nearby Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, is running a day reporting program at a cost of about $900 per offender per month, compared to the roughly $2,000 per person a month it costs to keep someone at the detention center.

From a dollars and cents perspective alone, this seems like a no-brainer. If the program also serves to help turn low-level criminals into productive members of society through treatment, even better.

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