DOVER-FOXCROFT — Piscataquis County commissioners on Tuesday gave their support for the extension of a unique jail diversion program that provides sentencing alternatives for convicted offenders.
For the past year, the Charlotte White Center has used a $35,000 grant to provide counseling services for 35 offenders.
Richard Brown, chief executive officer of the center, requested the use of $10,090 in adult community corrections funds to continue the program for another 30 weeks. “We feel the program has been a pretty key part of the whole correctional system here,” he said.
Initially, the center conducted screenings of certain offenders to determine their mental health needs and to determine whom would be best served in a batterers training program. Since the start-up, the center has offered two programs through the Jail Diversion Program, that of clinical counseling and EMERGE, an educational program for batterers.
Davis said that to date, 15 people have received outpatient counseling services, the majority of whom were referred by the Department of Probation and Parole. The program options have included assessment of mental health and substance abuse issues, and referral for psychiatric services, EMERGE and vocational services, he said. EMERGE has served 20 men to date.
The availability of mental health services and batterers training has provided options to the court in sentencing, from allowing interventions to reduce the rate of recidivism, to reducing the burden of cost to the county, according to Davis.
Brown said it was important to provide judges with alternative sentencing to allow minimum security offenders to return to the community. He said the continuation of the grant would allow outpatient counseling to 15 offenders and EMERGE training for 20 adult male offenders. It would also include presentencing assessments, evaluations and recommendations; mental health and domestic-abuse counseling, individual and group counseling and would serve as a network with correctional and community providers.
Edward Marsh, jail administrator, praised the program, saying it not only provided inmates with the help they needed, but it also allowed the jail to use its beds to house more federal prisoners, who are boarded at much higher rates than county and state prisoners. “I think it’s a worthwhile route to go,” he said.