Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Second Whistle Blower Speaks Out on Pretrial Services

Virginia is trying to get similar legislation passed as Florida is that would limit pretrial services to the indigent, nonviolent and allow the private surety industry to assist those defendants that can afford to post their own bail and based on their offense.

One whistle blower, Erika Matthews, a former pretrial services investigator for a pretrial services program in Virginia, has already come forward and exposed pretrial services for their true tactics and now a second whistle blower, Steve Carneal, a senior probation officer with Culpeper Criminal Justice Services in Virginia, has also come forward in support of House Bill 728 to limit pretrial services to the indigent and nonviolent. Read his message below that was sent to VA legislative committee members determining passage of the bill:

"To Those Who Serve This Great Commonwealth: Vote Yes to HB 728:

OK, I know many of my colleagues in the community corrections/pretrial may be contacting you in opposition to this bill. This is because their job and mine could be at stake if numbers are reduced. As a taxpayer, I believe this is the wrong approach to how government should operate. This bill expands jobs for bondsmen, increasing their pay which could stimulate the economy and it is better to expand private businesses instead of government in these tough economic times. That is why I believe this bill is a good bill.

I do not believe people should stay in jail if they truly cannot afford it, but there has to be a way to prove this. Many people do not have jobs but many also choose not to look. I have a personal knowledge of this as many of my colleagues do as well.

Due to the recent budget restraints my life has already been affected by the reduction of funding. My salary has been frozen for three years, insurance had increased, forcing me to reduce that benefit to pay more out of pocket and stop me from going to the doctor unless near death, and this year we are facing pay cuts and VRS cuts to offset skyrocketing government spending. I am set to lose three good friends that are in county positions in Culpeper alone. My wife is a school teacher - enough said there.

So with all I have at stake you would think with all this I would be asking for more funding for my program and for pretrial, but again, because my job or my family's jobs are at stake is not a good reason to expand government if it is not needed. Many Community Corrections and pretrial programs have slightly inflated numbers due to taking or holding cases that quite honestly should not be on probation. An example would be a no valid operator's license or fail to pay fines and costs. Some programs have become the dumping grounds for the courts as a baby-sitting or collection agency instead of trying to effectively facilitate change in their lives. This is not my idea of probation and pretrial and I do not believe that was the intention lawmakers had when drafted the Comprehensive Community Corrections Act Grant.

There is a shift in ideology to using more evidence-based practices in probation and pretrial services such as motivational interviewing techniques to help with facilitating this change, and preliminary data looks good, but Directors have to look at ways to cut numbers from the court to really make a difference, and I believe reducing numbers overall will make us more effective. Directors have become passive with judges because referrals are steady, but our goal is reducing recidivism not kingdom building. It they don't, then we are throwing money at a problem with no real solution.

Now is the perfect time to make cuts that have been needed for many years but lawmakers on both sides of the fence (Republicans and Democrats) are fearful to make. We cannot be lie California and many other states that cannot make budget and are so far behind the eight ball that may never recover. It is time to make cuts and turn more control back over to private business.

Again, I am not against pretrial but I can personally tell you too many people are on pretrial that can afford to pay for the services that are provided at taxpayers' expense. It is time to take in the belt. My family has and will continue to make cuts in our lifestyle yet serve the Commonwealth and its' citizens faithfully even if no longer within the realms of government.

I thank each of you for your service and I pray for each of you to seek God's wisdom on how to proceed in this and many other matter concerning this great Commonwealth. I ask you to vote yes to HB 728 to help ease the taxpayers' burden in this tough economic time. I look forward to hearing how you vote on this bill."

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