The Proctor beat | Arkansas Blog

The Proctor beat

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So much to write about, so little time. That would be the case with Mara Leveritt's cover story this week about the curious and lawless probation program started and singularly overseen by Circuit Judge Willard Proctor, now facing disciplinary charges in that operation.

So I thought I should add, lest there be any doubt: The bill that came out of a House committee yesterday (link corrected) to prohibit the assignment of probationers to unlicensed halfway house treatment facilities is, while a good bill generally, a direct response to more abusive practices in the operation of Proctor's Cycle Breakers program.

As it is, any kind of fly-by-night operator can declare themselves a substance abuse house and work a deal with the right person to get people assigned there. These places, without oversight, can become gulags for residents. They dare not complain about mistreatment, even physical punishment, lest the judge who sent them there end probation and put them in prison. The treatment centers best pay their tribute to the sentencing authority. The money kicked back to a sentencing authority, who knows where it goes? Etc.

Horror stories lurk in this scenario, beyond the baseline public outrage of lack of accountability. What we have here, at a mimimum, is another cozy arrangement in which Proctor depends on a steady stream of revenue flowing from the people sent to these facilities to pay the debts of the nonprofit he created and still controls.

Added note: Judge Proctor has refused -- has not even responded, actually -- to our FOI request for records of his probation program, nearly all kept apparently on his personal laptop. There is no exemption in the FOI for circuit court records. But the law has rarely been a consideration by Proctor since this misadventure began.

It is a shame that the state Supreme Court and, this week, Pulaski circuit judges, have taken a let-the-process-run-its-course approach when presented with an opportunity to at least make a statement on Proctor's behavior. More is necessary when a public official with such power over human lives willfully continues on a course of conduct unsanctioned by law or constitution.

ALSO: A case in Pennsylvania is instructive. There, a judge took kickbacks from sending juveniles to private treatment centers. I'm not alleging that Judge Proctor is taking kickbacks. But if his use of unlicensed facilities helps create a money flow for his organization, it's an incentive to send people there. And these are people, like those in Pennsylvania, who can become forgotten people trapped in a double-secret probation program of Proctor's devise from which only he may free them. Scary.

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