Buchanan- For newly elected District Attorney Jack Browning, anytime you can create jobs in the community while providing local control of an important program and saving taxpayers’ money, it just makes good business sense. The cost of operating prisons has been increasing at a rate that often outpaces state and local revenues. With the high cost of housing inmates, both state and local governments continue to utilize alternatives to traditional incarnation facilities for non-violent offenders who have no or minimal prior criminal record. According to Haralson County District Attorney Jack Browning, "A well run pretrial diversion program, where the offender may be required to attend classes, participate in counseling sessions, submit to random drug testing (all at the offender’s expense) and perform community service, can be a helpful tool for courts to use to contain the cost of housing inmates. Browning ads, "Another significant advantage pretrial programs offer is the ability to collect restitution for the victims of crimes. While money can never fully compensate the victim of crime, forcing those who commit crime to repay their victims sends a powerful message of accountability." The program was created here in the Tallapoosa Judicial Circuit by former District Attorney James Osborne. Since 2009, the judicial circuit has collected approximately $14,000 in compensation for crime victims.
Browning says the diversion program not only generates money for crime victims, but it can also speed up the wheels of justice considerably. “By cleaning the cases involving non-violent offenders from the court calendar, it helps make justice for victims in the more serious cases much swifter,” says DA Browning.
Soon after being elected, District Attorney Jack Browning says he began to evaluate the relationship between his office and the private firm, which had been administering the pretrial diversion programs in Polk and Haralson County. DA Browning says, “The typical offender remains in the program for 3 to 12 months and pays a monthly fee of $35.00 to the entity administrating the program. With our program the fee, which can be significant, has been paid to a private company located in Cumming, Georgia. I wanted to see the fee income for operating this program going into Polk and Haralson Counties’ general funds, not the bank account of a private entity. I believe in doing all I can to keep resources from leaving our community. I like the idea of keeping jobs in our community while maintaining local control. For those reasons, I asked our local Misdemeanor Probation offices to administer and manage the program, thereby keeping control over the program local, the jobs associated with managing the program local, and all revenue generated by the program local. The officers in these agencies bring a level of professionalism and willingness to be involved with the program that will undoubtedly ensure its success and growth.”
Requiring non-violent offenders in the program to perform community service is also appealing for DA Browning, “Hard work never hurt anyone. When our community can see non-violent probationers picking up trash or performing other community service work around the Tallapoosa Judicial Circuit, they can see that criminals will be punished. It lets the criminals know they will be held accountable.” Browning adds, “I commend James Osborne’s vision in creating this program.” According to Browning’s office, in 2012, program participants performed approximately 80 hours of community service and paid Polk County approximately $10,000. While in Haralson County, participants performed approximately 85 hours of service and paid approximately $6,000 to the county. Since 2009, a total of approximately $60,000 in payments has been made to governments in Polk and Haralson County.
"Pretrial programs work and they are successful. We are fortunate to have dedicated people working in our local Misdemeanor Probation offices that serve both Polk and Haralson Counties and are willing to provide their assistance and professionalism. I look forward to partnering with all of them to make the transition to local control as smooth as possible. A localized pretrial program can effectively serve the interests of the citizens of the Tallapoosa Judicial Circuit," said Jack Browning.