Early release of Region 8 offenders raises concern

By Rebecca Lane - bio | email

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Violent offenders in Greene County are being released back onto the streets.

"It's exasperating," Kimberly Dale says, "My hands are tied whenever they come to my court and I do not have charges filed."

Greene County Deputy Prosecutor, Kimberly Dale's office, once being self-sufficient and relying on their own revenue, now must turn to the Quorum Court for financial help.  The court has given them funds, but Dale explains "the well is dry." She explains a time when their office phone was almost shut off due to them being unable to pay.  The Court has provided $700 a month.  Dale has requested $900 a month and is still waiting a reply. Due to the lack of funding, staff, and time, she feels she is doing a disservice to residents.

Citizens have a right to a speedy trial.  Also, by law, if an offender's charges are not filed within sixty days, they are able to be released on their own recognizance.  Being released on OR does not mean their case is dismissed, according to Dale.  It just means they are out until their trial. Dale stresses that this is why it is so important to get the files processed as quickly as possible and in her current situation, that is not happening.

Processing a file, depending on severity of the case and whether more investigation needs to be done, can take hours if not days to process.  Last year, Dale filed 630 cases total.  On Friday, one-sixth of that was laying on her desk needing to be processed.  Of the cases lying on her desk, several of the offenders were released.  These included criminals charged with drug offenses, aggravated assault, terroristic threatening, burglary and habitual offenders.

Dale says on average, 15-20 similar offenders are released from jail.

Every time Dale has to push back an offender's court date, valuable time is wasted.

"That is one more time we are having to shuffle that person through the court system," she explains, "when we need to get them arraigned and get them on track for a trial."

District Court judges understand these issues, but Arkansas rules of criminal procedure allow no excuse for not having charges filed.

This procedure is also disheartening to the law enforcement that spends hours to months investigating and arresting these criminals.

"It's kind of a letdown to us" Captain Patrick Lenderman says, "We put a lot of hard work into getting these people arrested."

Lenderman works with the Greene County Sheriff's department.  He empathizes with Dale.

"They are overwhelmed just like we are overwhelmed," he explains, "It's not the prosecutor's fault."

So far this year, Lenderman has had 374 felony arrests this year.  These will be sent to Dale's office to be filed, but this is just a fraction of what she files.  The Sheriff's department is one of five departments Dale has to take care of.  Paragould, Marmaduke, and Oak Grove Police Departments plus the Arkansas State Police make up the rest of her list.

"It's hard for me to keep up with my own case loads," Lenderman says, "I'm just one man, but the prosecutor is taking care of five departments."

Lenderman and Dale are both continuing to do their job to the best of their ability with the resources and staff they have available.  Both agree the number one priority is the safety of Greene County residents.

Dale emphasizes if anyone has a problem with this issue, they can call the Justice of the Peace for their district and share their concerns with them.

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