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Corrections plan gets county green light

By By Robert Blankenship
Special to Advance
The Escambia County Commission gave its approval for local corrections officials to begin work on a plan that will allow judges to pass down alternative sentences to some offenders.
The program, known as the Escambia County Community Corrections Plan, was endorsed by local judges and the funding will be provided through a federal grant.
"This is a win-win situation for everybody and it won't cost the county anything," said Commissioner Wiley Tait.
The program is being used in other Alabama counties, but Commission Chairman Larry White said it was never implemented in Escambia due to lack of funding. According to the resolution approved by the commission, the program will "provide community-based alternatives to incarceration that reduces the cost of punishment while maintaining the integrity of the criminal justice system."
The commission said the Community Corrections Program are compatible and consistent with the goals of the Alabama Community Punishment and Corrections of Act of 1991. Those goals include: making offenders accountable to their local community by requiring direct financial restitution to crime victims and unpaid community service work; protecting a safe, cost-effective community punishment program by developing a range of sanctions available to local trial judges when sentencing offenders; reducing overall number of non-violent offenders committed to Alabama's prisons and jails by offering meaningful intermediate sanctioning programs; and providing opportunities for offenders demonstrating special needs to receive counseling, education, substance abuse treatment and other support services designed to enhance their ability to provide for themselves and their families.
White said the program will allow judges to utilize sentences such as community service and monitoring systems such as ankle bracelets.
"This will give our county leverage in passing down alternative sentences other than our state and county jails," White said.
The county will maintain the option of rescinding the program at any time.
Other items discussed by the commission included: