By Claire Withycombe | The Bulletin

August 3, 2016

Original source


The Deschutes County Local Public Safety Coordinating Council indicated tentative interest Tuesday in participating in a new statewide plan to provide professional coordinators for such councils.

Under Oregon law, every county has a local public safety coordinating council. It often flies under the radar, but it brings together public safety officials from police to courts to discuss a county’s justice-related goals and use of state and local resources.

Each council also plays a key role in applying for justice reinvestment funding, money that would have been spent to open a new state prison that instead goes to counties for local services. The members of Deschutes County’s council have worked to figure out how that money will be allocated to local nonprofits that assist victims, for example.

With anticipated federal grant funding, the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission now intends to pay for professional coordinators who will be dedicated to the councils, which have varying levels of involvement among counties.

Deschutes County’s council is one of the more active committees in the state, meeting regularly, while Jefferson County, for example, meets only about once a year, Deschutes County Commissioner Tammy Baney said during Tuesday’s meeting.

The Criminal Justice Commission and the Association of Oregon Counties are considering assigning two counties to each coordinator.

In Central Oregon, Jefferson, Crook and Deschutes Counties are natural partners for many regional programs, including transportation and the investigation of high-level drug crime, but Criminal Justice Commission Grant Analyst Madeleine Dardeau said that a tri-county arrangement would be unlikely, as overseeing the three counties might stretch a coordinator thin.

Baney, who was voted chairwoman of the council at the end of Tuesday’s meeting, voiced some hesitation about agreeing to a grant-funded position and questioned whether there was a plan for funding if the grant money runs out after three years.

The Criminal Justice Commission will know whether it receives the federal grant in October, at which point formal agreements will be drawn up with participating counties, Dardeau said.

Beyond the three years of grant funding, however, it is not clear how the coordinating position might be paid for, and Deschutes County 911 Service District Executive Director Steve Reinke said he was concerned that the burden of paying for the coordinator after three years might fall to Deschutes County, which has the largest population east of the Cascades.

Defense attorney Jacques DeKalb, a longtime member of the county’s public safety council, also indicated some trepidation about bringing on a coordinator, saying he thought it was important to consider that many local agencies, including Deschutes County Community Justice, already do much of the essential functions of the council’s data-collecting and collaboration efforts.

Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel said that he’d find a coordinator useful, commenting he did not have the capacity to coordinate or prepare for the council’s meetings as well as he’d like. A coordinator could gather more information and help agencies communicate outside of the monthly scheduled meetings.

By agreeing to indicate interest in participating, the council has not given its seal of approval to bring on the coordinator, only that the members are interested in pursuing the possibility further.

In other council business, Deevy Holcomb, a management analyst for Deschutes County Community Justice, reviewed an organizational chart of drug and alcohol treatment options utilized by the county’s parolees and probationers.

Two key barriers to effective re-entry into society after serving time in jail or prison include housing and effective substance-abuse treatment. The county now has slightly more sober-housing options, including some run by local treatment provider Pfeifer & Associates.

Deschutes County Community Justice, which oversees Adult Parole & Probation and the county’s juvenile justice branch, has a caseload of about 1,500 people, with, at minimum, Holcomb said, 300 in need of substance-abuse treatment.

The county’s main goals for offenders are to reduce the number of convicts who reoffend and re-enter the criminal justice system and to increase successful treatment completion.

Hummel also reviewed for the council recent revisions to a state law that grant immunity from prosecution for certain low-level drug-related crimes when reporting drug overdoses.