By Thomas Saccente
The Sebastian County Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee planning committee approved a protocol Tuesday to try to reduce jail overcrowding and provide a safe environment for staff and detainees.
The committee recommended all non-violent class C and D felonies, with the exception of a felon in possession of a firearm, be considered for signature bonds. If the detainee is unable to make his or her bond after two days, the detention center will use a pretrial assessment tool to determine flight risk level and threat to public safety.
If the detainee qualifies based on the prescreening tool, the detainee could potentially receive a signature bond, the protocol states. The Sebastian County Adult Detention Center will use the following procedures to determine the release of class C and D felonies:
‒ 1. Detention center staff will determine the detainee’s eligibility based on classification of class C or D felony. The staff includes the detention administrator, assistant administrator and jail inmate manager positions.
‒ 2. Interview of detainee utilizing the approved pretrial assessment tool.
‒ 3. Confirm information attained from the interview.
‒ 4. Determine category and scoring based on previous information.
‒ 5. Notify prosecuting attorneys and judges of pretrial assessment results by email.
‒ 6. If there are no objections, after 24 hours from the time the email notification is sent, the detention staff may release qualified detainees on an authorized signature bond; and electronic monitoring, if funding allows.
The pretrial assessment tool consists of 11 yes-or-no questions. Another question, how old was a defendant the first time he or she was arrested, is multiple choice. Each answer to these questions has a number of points assigned to it. The points are tallied throughout the course of the interview. The more points a detainee has at the end, the greater risk category he or she is assigned.
Sebastian County Judge David Hudson said the pretrial assessment tool was produced as a result of a study the county contracted the Council of State Governments to do to take a look its criminal justice system. The council reported best practices in April.
Hudson said the sheriff and jail administrator recommended implementing the pretrial assessment tool.
“The committee’s approved it today,” Hudson said.
Other questions the tool encompasses include whether or not a defendant has ever been sentenced to prison, has ever been treated for mental health problems or has any warrants.
After the planning committee approved the protocol, Hudson said it would take effect Tuesday as well.
″… That would allow, potentially, up to maybe 30 inmates to be released from the jail to help reduce the jail population for those that would qualify for this new procedure,” Hudson said.
There were over 500 inmates at the Sebastian County Adult Detention Center at 8 a.m. Tuesday, Hudson said.
The protocol was also discussed during the previous planning committee meeting Sept. 19. Hudson said the committee endorsed the protocol with some modifications at that point. The modified protocol was approved during Tuesday’s meeting.