Sandy Springs court system shifting to address drug, alcohol, mental health and veterans issues | News


Steve Ellis, Sandy Springs’ new metropolis solicitor, plans to fully revamp its Municipal Court docket system, and the restructured program may start this summer time.

As an alternative of sending all people with citations via one court docket system, it can break up them up into totally different courts for these with drug and alcohol points, psychological well being issues and for veterans solely.

A part of that metamorphosis, Metropolis Lawyer Dan Lee stated, contains applications to maintain minor offenders out of jail, a transfer that can profit each Sandy Springs and the people it arrests.

“We discovered that in Sandy Springs we spent some huge cash placing folks in jail and protecting them in jail, and the medical prices we incur are for individuals who don’t belong in jail if this program existed (are excessive),” Lee stated. “… So the success fee of each particular person is essential however as a metropolis we wish to do the proper factor and likewise get monetary savings.”

Ellis and Lee introduced their plans in the course of the Sandy Springs Metropolis Council’s Might 4 work session at Metropolis Springs. Ellis, who changed Leslie Donaho, beforehand served as chief deputy solicitor for Cobb County, the place he spent 10 years. He operated a few of the various courts in Cobb County, together with Drug Court docket, Psychological Well being Court docket and Veterans Court docket. Ellis additionally established Cobb’s DUI Court docket.

Sandy Springs’ Municipal Court docket system will shift to an analogous format, with the accountability court docket therapy workforce on the high of the organizational chart, in line with his presentation doc. To its left is the overall diversion program, which is for first-time offenders. DUI Court docket will likely be on the proper aspect, and on the backside are the three diversion tracks: psychological/behavioral well being, alcohol and drug habit and veterans.

The brand new court docket system will likely be a hybrid one with each diversion and accountability applications. Diversion is a pre-plea technique supplied solely by the prosecutor’s workplace during which a defendant completes particular phrases and situations, often six to 24 months, in change for having his or her case dismissed.

Accountability is a post-plea program the place a defendant enters a responsible plea earlier than a choose and undergoes a sentence that would final 12 to 36 months. If this system is efficiently accomplished, the conviction will likely be reversed partly or wholly and the case will likely be dismissed, with the responsible plea vacated.

“We’re going to give attention to circumstances the place there’s drug, psychological sickness or veterans points,” Ellis stated. “We’ll even have a DUI Court docket like we had in Cobb. The DUI Court docket will likely be a post-plea program, not pre-plea. … This will likely be a extremely individualized method, not one dimension matches all.”

One factor that can stay unchanged is the Municipal Court docket won’t see any critical crime offenders equivalent to people accused of armed theft or homicide.

The town’s courts will cost charges to defendants to assist pay for its providers, equivalent to a therapy supplier. Ellis stated the town expects to have 35 to 40 people for what he calls the pilot program, which might be the primary group of defendants to undergo the totally different court docket methods and plans to start out quick.

“Accountability court docket is eighteen months from begin to end, however we’re going to do that in lower than six months,” he stated.

The town’s accountability court docket therapy workforce is assembly April via June, and it’ll open the applying course of for defendants from mid-June via August. The primary candidates re anticipated to be accepted into this system in August and September.

“Once they graduate in 12 months, 24 months, they’ve been restored, they usually doubtless gained’t reoffend,” Ellis stated.

District 5 Councilman Tibby DeJulio requested him what his success fee prior to now was for his applications in Cobb. Ellis stated the DUI Court docket’s success fee throughout its first 10 years (2008-18) was 75 to 80%, and the Psychological Well being Court docket’s was 66%.

“I’m going to shoot for 100,” he stated of all of the court docket’s applications. “I do know I’m not going to get there. However realistically, we should always shoot for 66 to 85%.

Ellis stated all court docket program individuals will likely be topic to alcohol and drug screening. Any individuals who can’t afford to pay the court docket charges, that are $700 upfront and $60 a month can have them waived or transformed into neighborhood service.



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