In-house probation services could replace Justice Network

Justice Network
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The Justice Network's connection to Craighead County District Court could be a thing of the past when the new year starts.

Newly elected District Court Judges David Boling and Tommy Fowler plan on discontinuing services with the Memphis-based group when they take office on January 2, 2017.

Boling, a former deputy prosecutor in Poinsett County, said he's seen the issue first-hand.

"It's a vicious cycle of a revolving door," David Boling said. "Someone may be assessed the fines, they've paid off part of it. Their records may not be held complete and they could potentially be brought back in front of the court."

Boling told Region 8 News that one of his biggest concerns is that the group, that earns hundreds of thousands of dollars from misdemeanor probationers in Craighead County, doesn't have a written contract with the county.

"If you're going to build a house or you're going to add onto your business or anything of that nature, and you're talking about something worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, you want a contract so you know the terms and conditions," Boling said. "What are my obligations? What are their obligations? That's a lot of money not to be able to go back and say hey, are they upholding their end of the bargain?"

Boling said in its place, he hopes to create an in-house probation system.

"One of the key things to do is think outside the box," Boling said. "There are other counties in Arkansas that have addressed this situation and decided not to use a for-profit probation company."

Boling said in Sharp County in 2015, approximately $900 thousand in man hours was applied instead of having fines assessed.

"That's one of the issues that a judge has to take into account of whether or not a person can afford to do it," Boling said.

Boling said in some instances where an able-bodied person might not be able to pay, they could work instead.

"They provide services of painting schools in the summertime. They work cemeteries to make sure cemeteries that are maybe older and not able to be kept up as well, keeping those clean," Boling said. "Here in Jonesboro and Craighead County, we have a lot of projects. We can help the school districts; we can help the Miracle League."

Boling said he plans to meet with Judge Fowler in the coming weeks to discuss plans for the future.

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