Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Potter County: Criminal Justice Reform To Be Recognized By High Court

Potter County will receive special recognition from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court at 1:30 pm Thursday, Sept. 22, in the main courtroom. Justice Sallie Updyke Mundy will present a certificate of accreditation to President Judge Stephen Minor and Senior Judge John Leete, recognizing the Potter County DUI Treatment Court as a nationally recognized best practice in criminal justice administration. Now in its third year, the specialty court offers certain alcoholic offenders the opportunity to access treatment and support services which, if successfully completed, can lead to a reduction in criminal charges. Accreditation by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court signifies that Potter County’s DUI Treatment Court has met national and state standards. Goal of the court is to reduce relapse and recidivism by addressing each qualifying individual’s needs with a customized treatment plan and intensive supervision by the Potter County Probation Department. Potter County also operates a separate Drug Treatment Court for those offenders who qualify for the program and have been diagnosed with a drug addiction other than alcohol. Judge Leete presides over both of the specialty courts.

Nationally, more and more court jurisdictions are adopting the treatment court systems. Few, if any, of the specialty courts have been implemented in a county as rural as Potter. A third element of the county’s sweeping criminal justice reform activities, the Women’s Residential Recovery Center at the Northern Tier Children’s Home, has also attracted statewide interest as a potential model for other jurisdictions. Potter County is also pursuing a pilot “pre-trial diversion program,” through which those who are initially charged with a crime are evaluated early on in the processing of their cases for issues such as alcoholism, drug addiction or other circumstances that could be addressed. Overarching goal of all four initiatives is to improve public safety by reducing the number of repeat offenders, thus reducing jail populations.