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Judges want probation department

Washington County Common Pleas judges met with the Washington County Commission on Thursday to discuss a two-year grant they will soon receive from the state.

The grant, funded through the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, will provide $225,000 per year.

“The purpose of this grant is to provide funds to (Washington County Commission) to enable it to establish and operate full supervision for offenders under community control within its jurisdiction,” the grant agreement stated.

Common Pleas judges Mark Kerenyi and John Halliday explained they want to use the money to fund a probation department that would provide pre-trial services.

Kerenyi said the county uses the state’s Adult Parole Authority for probation services and community control, but their services are limited.

“They can’t provide services pre-trial, so before we do the sentencing entry, they can’t touch anybody,” he said.

The only alternative is to set a high bond, but if the offender makes bail, “all of the sudden they are in the community unsupervised,” Kerenyi added.

The judges envision hiring three probation officers who would have more control of the offenders.

“As part of the condition of the bond, they will be under the supervision of the probation department pre-trial and they can drug test them,” Kerenyi said. “We’ll be able to get people into treatment way, way earlier.”

He said for domestic violence offenders, the probation officer can put them on GPS to keep them away from certain people or homes.

Another issue is that the APA is unionized and only works certain hours. If they are asked to work later hours, they must get permission from a supervisor in Columbus to work an alternate schedule.

Halliday noted the officers would have to have split work schedules to work evening hours.

He said there is new reform in the works through the legislature to prefer non-cash bonds. They wouldn’t be able to keep people in jail on cash bonds unless they pose a threat or are violent offenders.

“Their thinking is that if you have money, you get out of jail and if you don’t have money, you sit in jail,” Kerenyi added.

“They are trying to get us to prefer (personal recognizance) bonds, which means more people will be out and less people will be in jail pre-trial,” Kerenyi said.

Commissioner Jamie Booth asked if the officers would have to go through the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy (OPOTA).

Kerenyi said they would have to go through a 40-hour arms class instead, along with 20 hours of training through the state, which is all online. There would be another 20 hours of continuing training a year.

Halliday said one of the requirements would be for the offender to check in with their probation officer instead of the probation officer contacting the offender.

“I don’t know what all parameters of the pre-trial services will be, but they will be tailored to the individual at any time while we have an open case,” he said.

Kerenyi said they weren’t asking for any money to get the program started. The county is providing office space for the APA, but the county probation department would take over those offices.

“At no cost to us … it’s your offices,” he said. “We’re not asking for a penny.”

With the grant, there are no match requirements and the program can be built immediately, Halliday said.

Commissioner Charlie Schilling asked if the grant would cover 100 percent of the costs of the program, and Kerenyi replied they are using left over Targeted Community Alternatives to Prison (T-CAP) grant funds to help get the program up and running.

Kerenyi said they have $120,000 from the T-CAP grant which has to be used by next June or returned to the state. The money would be used for equipment, firearms, computers, desks or vehicles.

The T-CAP grant is available as funds normally used for the Compass Drug Court were replaced by $500,000 the court received in federal grants.

Kerenyi said because APA is providing services, they aren’t allowed to charge fees as the Marietta Municipal Court or Washington County Juvenile Courts do. By using local probation officers, they will be able to charge fees.

“We’ll have another income stream,” Kerenyi said.

“So you’ll be able to charge those people who want to be out of jail and on probation,” Booth asked.

Kerenyi said Juvenile Judge Timothy Williams charges a flat fee of $100, while Municipal Judge Janet Dyar Welch charges a monthly fee.

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