published Thursday, August 4th, 2011

Hamilton County won't alter community corrections program

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    In this file photo, Judge Robert Moon sits in his courtroom.
    Staff File Photo by Jake Daniels/Chattanooga Times Free Press

After a 90-day evaluation of Hamilton County's court-ordered community corrections work assignments, county leaders and judges decided Wednesday to make no immediate changes to the program.

In May, the county moved its Community Corrections Office -- which manages the program for those given community service as punishment -- from downtown Chattanooga to a Red Bank location that's not on a bus line. The move prompted General Sessions Criminal Court judges to raise concerns that offenders who lack transportation to the facility might successfully seek reversals of their convictions because of a lack of due process.

The County Commission and Judges David Bales, Clarence Shattuck and Robert Moon agreed to monitor the issue for 90 days to see how many offenders failed to report as scheduled. The study showed that 153 out of 3,505, about 4 percent, failed to appear.

"I think it's manageable and I think we have a handle on it," Moon said.

Last month, the judges met with District Attorney General Bill Cox to create a process for verifying transportation problems for offenders.

Moon said Wednesday that he now requires an additional line on court forms saying that transportation is not a problem for those sentenced to community service. He also said he has assigned a private-sector probation company for those who lack transportation to the Red Bank facility.

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger has supported recent efforts to accommodate offenders who encounter transportation challenges. He said the success of the community service program, which has existed for about a decade, is vital for helping avoid costs of incarcerating many nonviolent offenders.

The program "helps the county taxpayers as far as saving money," he said.

about Ansley Haman...

Ansley Haman covers Hamilton County government. A native of Spring City, Tenn., she grew up reading the Chattanooga Times and Chattanooga Free Press, which sparked her passion for journalism. Ansley's happy to be home after a decade of adventures in more than 20 countries and 40 states. She gathered stories while living, working and studying in Swansea, Wales, Cape Town, South Africa, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Ga., and Knoxville, Tenn. Along the way, she interned for ...

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