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November 1, 2010 - 3:48pm

Proposal being floated to consolidate Genesee Justice with county probation

posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, budget, Genesee Justice.

In an effort to close a significant budget gap, the Genesee County Legislature will be asked to look at eliminating Genesee Justice and moving its services to the County Probation Department.

Genesee Justice provides a variety of services, including supervising accused criminals released from jail, as well as some convicted drunken drivers, and assisting victims of crime.

County Manager Jay Gsell said in the 17 years he's been with the county, Genesee Justice has gone from a program funded entirely by state grants to one that now has $237,000 in unfunded expenses.

The county is a looking for a way to cut that expense in an effort to trim $7.5 million from the proposed 2011 budget.

"We know what services Genesee Justice delivers and we know how it is delivered," Gsell said. "What we're looking at is how can we deliver that same level of service to the community through the probation department."

Ed Minardo, director of Genesee Justice has some concerns about whether the same level of services can be maintained.

He said he's working on an information campaign to help decision-makers understand all that Genesee Justice does and exactly what's involved in delivering the current level of services.

"I'm concerned," Minardo said. "We've been here 30 years. I want to ensure that this is a carefully deliberated decision."

Under the proposal -- which Gsell says is very preliminary -- about seven-and-half positions in Genesee Justice would be eliminated and three positions created in probation.

The Children's Advocacy Center, which employs two people, would remain under the supervision of the Sheriff's Office, which currently oversees Genesee Justice.

Gsell said the change could eliminate administration and overhead costs, but it still needs further study.

Minardo said that in 2009, Genesee Justice supervised 419 people assigned to community service; and 518 people in Genesee Jail were screened for possible release under supervision; and 245 accused criminals were released and supervised by Genesee Justice. 

The number of victims helped by Genesee Justice is not immediately available.

The county budget hearing is at 6 p.m., Nov. 17 in the county courts facility.

Jeremiah Pedro
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The consolidation makes sense. I just have one question. If people are presumed innocent until proven guilty then why would an "accused criminal" (that label sounds like a presumption of guilt)need supervision? I'm curious if there is anyone that works at the Genesee Justice or County Probation that can answer that question with a logical answer.
Howard B. Owens
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Perhaps, "accused of criminal acts" would be more suitable? The phrase doesn't come from GJ. It's my writing trying to be as concise as possible.
Jeremiah Pedro
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Nothing against your choice of words Howard. My concern lies with the fact that County probation or Genesee justice can or do supervise someone that has not been convicted of a crime yet. I'm not trying to be an ass here, I'm genuinely interested in knowing about this.
Howard B. Owens
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If you're arrested and not yet convicted, one of four things can happen: 1) held without bail. (generally, high flight risks on serious crimes) 2) Have bail set and then either be able to pay it or not. If you make bail, I don't _believe_ you are supervised by GJ (though I've watched Judge Noonan give many an instruction not to get arrested again for anything). 3) Get released under supervision (called RUS) by GJ. Not only can't you get in trouble, but you've got to report in and there may be other things that go with it. 4) Released under your own recognizance (ROR). No supervision. The type of release is variable by crime, criminal record, past performance on parole/probation/RUS, past tendency to make court appearance, ties to the community, work history, etc. I've heard defense attorneys question the idea that you can be released on bail or RUS, get busted and have your bail or RUS status revoked, even though you've not been convicted of the crime related to the second arrest. It does sound like a due process issue to me, but I also see how it's an effective tool to deal with people who just aren't getting the message. At least that's how I understand things to this point of covering the criminal justice system in Genesee County.

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