by Max Brantley
Amid persistent rumors that a state audit is nearing completion of Judge Willard Proctor's curious Cycle Breakers probation program, comes this resolution for Quorum Court consideration, written by Proctor and sponsored by JP Mary Louise Williams.
Whereas the Quorum Court recognizes that in order to deal with crime Prevention and Intervention programs are essential; and
Whereas the Pulaski County Circuit Court, Fifth Division has a probation department which is charged with the responsibility of providing serves that will help to rehabilitate criminal defendants thereby preventing future crimes; and
Whereas the Pulaski County Circuit Court, Fifth Division has worked with Cycle Breakers, Inc. in helping to sponsors programs that will help to rehabilitate criminal defendant.
BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED THAT:
1. Employees of Pulaski County are authorized to receive compensation and reimbursements from Cycle Breakers, Inc. for their services as security, drivers, group leaders, and staff at the Quarterly Mandatory Meetings, Monthly Meetings, Daily Meetings, Chemical Free Program, Anger Management/Domestic Violence Classes and other activities related to the rehabilitation of criminal defendants.
2. Employees of Pulaski County are further authorized to receive compensation and reimbursements from Cycle Breakers, Inc. for tuition, training, meetings, and other classes that they attended to further their qualifications, skills or education.
What's this about? Good question. Whatever it's about, the Quorum Court shouldn't rush off half-cocked to fiddle with a program that needs a long, thorough, public examination.
I don't understand the need for private judicial probation programs -- rather than the state probation services -- that a handful of judges operate. They look too much like political organizations and are too prone to being populated with friends, fellow church members. etc. We're nervous when, even in an honest zeal to rehabilitate, judges might create the appearance that probationary sentences are for sale for payments to the their non-profit organizations. We are not enamored of programs run by judicial fiat -- from fees to terms of rehab to employment to establishment of related non-profits that can engage in sometimes controversial real estate dealing -- without public oversight. We are fearful of judges controlling non-profit organizations that depend on charity for financial support. What's to prevent a lawyer with business before a certain court to earn favor in ways not readily apparent to the public by contributing to such an organization? These are but a few of the problems that can arise, no matter how good the intentions, in programs without public accountability. Has the state audit raised some questions about employment procedures in Proctor's program? I don't know. If so, the Quorum Court would be best advised to move carefully, not hastily.
UPDATE -- This matter is even worse than I thought. I now have a copy of another proposed ordinance, It also was authored by Judge Proctor and proposed by JP Williams. It authorizes employees of Proctor's court to collect fines, probation fees and other costs that he assesses, in place of the circuit clerk. It also allows Proctor's employees to receive and disburse restitution payments. The ordinance provides for some reporting on this procedure. A little late to close this barn door, don't you think?
UPDATE II: These proposals are up for consideration by the Quorum Court TONIGHT on an emergency basis, without going through committee as is customary. A rules suspension will be necessary. Is this Quorum Court serious about rebuilding its credibility? Or not?
UPDATE III: I'm not sure, because I wasn't hooked to the TV, but I think a vote to suspend the rules to consider these proposals tonight failed.