Day reporting program projected to save Carroll $300,000 annually

By Allen Worrell Editor

August 28, 2013

Carroll County’s day reporting program has saved the county a little over $90,000 in its first 90 days and is estimated to save the county $300,000 annually.

The community service program, designed as a means for alternative punishment of non-violent crime offenders in Carroll County, has seen 12 people enter the program, Carroll County Commonwealth’s Attorney Nathan H. Lyons told the Carroll County Board of Supervisors during its August 12 meeting. So far, one has completed the program, 10 are still serving their sentence, and one will most likely fail the program.

“We are probably going to have one failure at this point, which is normal. You have about a 10 to 15 percent attrition rate on folks who are not successful in any program that you do, especially day reporting,” Lyons told the board. “Right now…the dollar amount that the county would realize as a savings to them is a little over $90,000 based on those 12 individuals.”

Sentences for those offenders range anywhere from 60 days up to 12 months of incarceration, Lyons said. Even with attrition, he said the program would probably save Carroll County approximately $300,000 annually.

The hope is to keep around 30 people in the program at any given time. One person can realistically supervise about 40 in the program, Lyons said, but 30 seems to be a reasonable number for Carroll.

“Whether we can do that or not, a lot of that is up to the court, a lot of it is up to what comes through the doors as far as crime. Obviously it is not designed for everybody. It’s not made for violent offenders or offenders with certain categories of crimes,” Lyons said. “The sheriff and I screen each person that goes into the program, and so far we think it has been a success. I know maintenance would probably tell you it’s a big success.”

That’s because the day reporting program has allowed the county’s maintenance department to concentrate on more skilled labor such as electrical work and plumbing. Those in the day reporting program can take care of the county’s less skilled needs that require weedeating, mowing, trimming bushes and things of that nature, Lyons said.

So far, the one failure in the program had nothing to do with the person’s work in the day reporting program. The failure resulted because the person had other obligations in another state, which decided to revoke him based on those obligations.

“We don’t have any control over that. So otherwise the first week or so he was in the program he was excellent, turned in all of his hours,” Lyons said. “He was working the City of Galax, but he had certain obligations to somebody else, and he has to fulfill those.”

Carroll County Board of Supervisors’ Chairman David Hutchins asked Carroll County Sheriff J.B. Gardner if the projected cost savings to the county would be enough to adequately fund a position to supervise the program.

“It is, and we would like to find some more jobs and some more folks to do those jobs,” Gardner said.

Hutchins replied by saying he has heard positive things about the program. He added that cost avoidance is as important as anything to the county.

Currently, Lyons said those in the day reporting program report to a supervisor or hired deputy. If the county doesn’t have work for them, do they still have to stay, Supervisor Sam Dickson wanted to know? Lyons said they do have to stay regardless, so the county tries to make sure it always has work for those in the day reporting program.

“We don’t want them to have idle hands. That is what got them to us to start with,” Lyons said. “If we don’t have work, we will find work.”

If the county can’t find work for those in the day reporting program, Lyons said it will contact other service providers such as Goodwill, the local landfill, and other areas that will benefit the overall community.

“We haven’t gone too much further than Goodwill but we try to find locations closer to where the offender may live. We have used Galax twice I think for individuals,” Lyons said. “One lived in Sparta (North Carolina), one lived in Independence, and the City of Galax’s maintenance department was able to allow us to serve there as well. My office serves half of the city of Galax, too, so we thought that would be a good place for them, and one of them worked out perfectly.”

Dickson said it sounds like a great program. Lyons said the county has enjoyed the program so far.

“It gives the court another set of alternatives to use. Not just the cost savings, but if you have an offender who you think in a relatively short amount of time is going to be returned to the community and you don’t want them to go to that next level, whether it be incarceration or whatever it may be, this is a program designed to help that person get life skills,” Lyons said. “There is a classroom element to it, there is a work element to it, so we give them the skills hopefully and the discipline hopefully they need so when they go back out we don’t see them again.”

Some do not qualify for the program based on the severity of the current offense or their past record. Lyons said Carroll won’t accept anyone into the program with a conviction for crimes of violence or if it is someone law enforcement doesn’t think can be trusted in the community.