Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Resolution to Declare an Economic State of Emergency

The following statement is issued by the Fulton County Justice System elected officials:

Less than one month ago, the criminal justice departments met with the Budget Commission and were informed that the 2010 budgets would be fully funded. Last week, we unexpectedly received word from the County Manager and his staff that this is no longer true. Because of a severe reduction in both the commercial and residential tax digests, Fulton County will be forced to reduce expenditures by at least $146 million. The County Manager also informed us that every county department must participate in the reductions--the criminal justice system’s share being $55 million with individual criminal justice departments asked to reduce budgets by around 25%.Today, the County Manager informed us that a new proposal would place the criminal justice departments’ share closer to $25 million.

At this time, the Board of Commissioners has made no final decision regarding the size of budget cuts that will need to be made. However, it is certain that the large decrease in revenue will result in a drastic reduction to Fulton County department budgets and the criminal justice departments will not be exempt. After careful considerations of the impact to the criminal justice system were a drastic budget reduction enacted, we the members of the criminal justice system have determined that the results would be disastrous. Not only would it result in the immediate loss of between 445 and 980 jobs, it would also, in our opinion, raise serious questions regarding public safety. Over the past decade, working together as a system, we have achieved numerous accomplishments such as:

• The jail population has been reduced from 4,300 to 2,500;
• We are now able to charge defendants within 30 minutes of arrest;
• The number of criminal cases pending in Superior Court has been reduced by 61%;
• As a result, although the Fulton County’s population has increased, and continues to increase, the violent crime rate has declined by 43%;

Despite these significant system improvements, there is more to be done. Not only does the proposed budget reduction threaten every system improvement made to date, if implemented as outlined, it could slow criminal court case processing to a near halt and eliminate all existing treatment court alternatives. This is not an acceptable outcome for our community. Therefore, we, the below signed criminal justice agencies, have decided to declare an Economic State of Emergency within the Fulton County criminal justice system. As a part of this Economic State of Emergency, our plan is to work together to implement system wide strategies that take into account our precarious financial situation while focusing all our attention and resources upon the primary tasks of maintaining public safety, i.e., the protection of citizens and the Fulton County community. Furthermore, our goal is to do so while maintaining employees and the integrity of the criminal justice system.

Signed by:
Doris L. Downs, Chief Judge, Superior Court
Albert Thompson, Chief Judge, State Court
Paul L. Howard, Jr., District Attorney
Vernon Pitts, Public Defender
Cathelene Tina Robinson, Clerk, Superior Court
Ted Jackson, Sheriff

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