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Committee approves hiring deputy to assist probation department

Dan McDonald
Managing Editor
1/26/2013
 

The sheriff could get another new deputy. And the district attorney could get additional money to fund the county’s growing Alternative Sentencing Program.

That’s what will happen if the Board of Supervisors approves recommendations passed last week by the county’s Community Corrections Partnership committee.

The odds of the supervisors approving the moves are good, because the money will be coming from the county’s share of Assembly Bill 109 (Criminal Justice Realignment) funding.

During its Wednesday, Jan. 15, meeting at the Plumas County courthouse in Quincy, the committee also proposed establishing a subcommittee to find a new site for the Day Reporting Center.

District Attorney David Hollister said the DRC has quickly outgrown its home at The Resource Center in Quincy. 

The Day Reporting Center — a place where people in the criminal justice system can find support and services — may have overstayed its welcome at The Resource Center as well.

Resource Center Executive Director Dennis Thibeault said he was ready for the DRC to leave his offices. He told the committee the program lacked specific policies and an overall philosophy. He said it wasn’t the “wonderful collaboration” he was told it would be.

The county’s Community Corrections Partnership committee is comprised of Hollister, Sheriff Greg Hagwood, Public Defender Douglas Prouty, Mental Health Director Peter Livingston, Superior Court designee Deborah Norrie and Acting Chief Probation Officer Douglas Carver.

Norrie did not attend the meeting.

Carver was chairing his final monthly meeting. He is precluded from working any longer because the terms of his public service retirement limit the number of hours he can work. He will be replaced Feb. 1 by Daniel Prince, who will also be an acting chief.

 

New deputy

The committee approved using $52,500 to fund an additional deputy position to help the probation department conduct field searches and visits to people on probation.

The deputy would primarily provide an armed presence when probation officers are visiting people on post-release community supervision.

Post-release people are individuals who were transferred to county supervision after being released from state prison. The transfer is part of the AB 109 realignment.

There are currently 34 former state prison inmates under the probation department’s watch.

The new deputy would work exclusively with the probation department. Currently, unarmed probation officers often conduct the visits alone because there are no deputies available to assist them.

The sheriff said the probation department desperately needs help in the field.

  “We are currently nine deputies short from where we really need to be,” Hagwood said. “We have made some strides as of late with cooperation of the Board of Supervisors. But we would like to augment, with some measure of specialty, our deputy sheriff ranks, so that we can provide the support services that I think we would all acknowledge the probation department is struggling with right now.” The committee approved the sheriff’s request for the new deputy by a 4-0 vote.

Committee member Livingston, who was attending his second meeting since being named to the committee, abstained. He said he didn’t have enough information about the committee’s budget.

 

Alternative sentencing

The committee unanimously approved the DA’s request for $40,458 to help fund the Alternative Sentencing Program.

Hollister said the money would help pay for a temporary case manager and add funding for database licenses, office furniture, supplies, services and staff training.

The Alternative Sentencing Program is located in the DA’s office. The program assists offenders with drug and alcohol problems and helps reunite broken families.

The program works with the courts, ancillary service providers and nonprofits, as well as law enforcement. It helps to ensure quality, evidence-based programming is being offered to the criminal justice population.

Hollister said he requested the financial help because the program has grown rapidly, reaching more than 120 defendants.

“What we initially envisioned as more of a conduit or a liaison between the resources and the court has turned into much more,” Hollister said. “I think a lot of us, probably the court included, are very reliant on alternative sentencing to try and deal with AB 109 and its fallout. 

“I struggle with where we are at right now as a county. I don’t think we are where we want to be. It makes me a little nervous to think of where we would be without alternative sentencing.”

 

Reporting center move

A committee under the Community Corrections Partnership will study a possible relocation of the center.

One potential site discussed is the county building, just east of the sheriff’s office, that formerly housed the probation department.

However, Hollister said he realizes the county is hoping to sell that building.

Any move would require approval by the Board of Supervisors.

“I think the Alternative Sentencing Program, in conjunction with the Day Reporting Center, is one of the best things Plumas County has done with AB 109 in response,” Hollister said. “Unfortunately, it has been tremendously popular and we have outgrown the space.”

Hollister thanked the Resource Center Executive Director Dennis Thibeault for allowing the DRC to be housed in his offices.

“Dennis stepped up to the plate when there weren’t a lot of other options at all,” Hollister said. “It’s a credit to him and the benefit he provided to the community.”

Thibeault said he agreed it was time for the DRC to move out. He said that although the rent is paid through the end of April, he wouldn’t mind if the reporting center left early.

Despite its success and popularity, he said the Day Reporting Center operation has problems. He said the Community Corrections Partnership committee wasn’t providing a clear policy or philosophy of how the center was supposed to work.

“When it first was brought to my attention, and sold as a good idea to me, it was sold on the basis that this was going to be a wonderful collaboration,” Thibeault said. “It has not been a collaboration, at least in my definition of a collaboration.

“We don’t have a philosophy of how this is supposed to work with community partners.”

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