A 10 percent across-the-board cut on top of a 4 percent employee pay decrease tentatively approved by Commissioner in December will force reductions or elimination of diversion programs that will funnel more than 1,000 defendants back into the county’s already overcrowded jail, said Chief Fulton Superior Court Judge Doris L. Downs.
“If we must eliminate or drastically reduce our Drug and Mental Health Courts and our supervised pretrial release programs we cannot allow the defendants in these programs to remain on the street unsupervised,” Downs said Monday during a meeting of program administrators. Up to 30 Superior Court employees could be fired to meet the county goal, she said. Other equally large numbers of employees could be fired from the District Attorney, Public Defender and Clerk of Court.
Upwards of 1700 defendants are currently supervised by these programs at a drastically lower cost per day than incarceration in the county jail. For example, defendants on supervised pretrial release cost the county $5 a day. Drug and Mental Health Court defendants are supervised for $23 a day. Jailing inmates costs a minimum of $72 a day.
Superior Court Administrator Judy Cramer said every cost saving effort has already been taken and all that’s left to cut are jobs.
“Wednesday is the last chance for the Commission to take into account the true impact of cuts of this magnitude,” Cramer said. Layoff letters are being readied in case the Commission holds fast to the 10-percent cuts. “We must deliver the letters by Monday in order for our employees to have time to explore other positions within the county and receive assistance from human resources with filing for unemployment and other benefits,” she said.
Downs and Cramer have met with individual commissioners and county executives and laid out an alternative plan that would cut the jail population in half by July, but that plan requires funding the judicial system at its current level. The extra personnel to process additional cases would be paid for by an existing federal stimulus grant received by the court last year, Downs said.
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