A new strategic plan was adopted during this month’s meeting of the Potter County Criminal Justice Advisory Board (CJAB). It’s a detailed document that identifies the issues, challenges, priorities and steps that will be taken as the many elements of the county’s criminal justice system work together to improve outcomes. CJAB officers are Judge Stephen Minor, chairman; Commissioner Paul Heimel, vice chairman; and Colleen Wilber, Potter County Human Services, secretary. Overall goals in the CJAB action plan for the new year include:
- Implementation of a Pretrial Diversion Program for Potter County.
- Continued partnership with the National Data-Driven Justice Initiative.
- Expanded early education programs to identify and address the rise in juvenile anti-social behavior/mental health and criminal activity.
- Transitional/half-way housing for offenders along with an increased focus on skills training and employment needs.
- Training on understanding, cooperation and communication among all the criminal justice agencies and offices in the county.
To reduce the number of criminals who re-offend (recidivism), the board has identified the following gaps: need for more vocational training; enhancing and creating more youth services; lack of family support services; need for data collection; need for more correctional alternatives; lack of service system addressing behavioral health issues, lack of support from the community and funding.
To address these issues, the board has proposed: addressing the stigma; educating employers; developing a community center; an increase in Children & Youth Services involvement; community ownership; enhancing efforts to prepare inmates for re-entering society; providing education for offenders and their families; providing behavioral health treatment; enhancing mentoring programs; working with different age groups; and pursuing alternative sentencing options.
For alcohol and drug abuse-related crimes, the board has identified the following gaps: lack of education; lack of disposal of old medication; lack of drug-related education for licensed doctors; lack of communication between doctors and pharmacists; lack of doctor accountability; identity theft for acquisition of drugs; and a lack of general data.
To address these issues, the board has proposed the following strategies: pursuing goals of the National Data-Driven Justice Initiative; continuing Medication Take-Back Days and Collection Boxes; enhancing communication between the criminal justice system and the physical health/behavioral health fields; continuing doctor education; and increasing alcohol, tobacco and other drugs education through evidenced-based programs within the school districts.
For mental health-related crimes, the board has identified the following gaps: lack of training for personnel; a gap between Substance Abuse and Mental Health programs; lack of funding; lack of available treatment; and lack of county in-patient facilities.
To address these issues, the board has proposed: training for probation officers, jail personnel, and others; secure funding for alternatives; examine resources and how they are used in the system; examine the creation of a Mental Health Court, increasing co-occurring (mental health/drug abuse) options.