In September 2018 a workgroup was formed to discuss the possibility of a pretrial release program within the county. The group consisted of local judges, District Attorney, Chief Magistrates, Clerk of Court, Law Enforcement officials, Stepping Up Coordinators, Detention Staff, County Management, and others. In January 2019, Alamance County was one of just 18 counties across NC that were invited to participate in the Attorney General’s Roundtable on Pretrial Release. This was an all-day event and as a result of this day, the team returned to immediately begin implementation of steps towards our pretrial release work. One such step that was implemented just weeks later in late January 2019; the implementation of First Appearance for all misdemeanant offenders.
In April 2019, a Pretrial Release Program was implemented full swing within the Sheriff’s Office with the hiring of a part-time case manager and with the full support of the local judges, DA, defense attorneys, Clerk of Court, Magistrates and the entire Pretrial Release Workgroup. The program looks at low-level, non-violent misdemeanor offenders who may qualify for pretrial release based on the use of a validated risk assessment tool that weighs and scores the individual risk for not returning to their court date and the likelihood that they would re-offend. In addition to the tool, the case manager interviews the individual, looks closely at criminal history and the overall situation to evaluate and make a recommendation to the courts as to appropriateness for this program. Only with a Judges’ approval, (court order), is the detainee qualified to participate in this Pretrial Release Program under the supervision of the case manager with regular check-in and conditions for release such as treatment, employment, etc.
To date, the program has served over 50 individuals with only a small number who have been terminated from the program for non-compliance. The program’s focus is on treatment instead of jail and addresses barriers that often lead to recidivism within the criminal justice system for low-level offenders such as homelessness, employment, addictions, and mental health disorders. In the words of a recent graduate of the Pretrial Release Program, “ this program kept me from going through a revolving door and helped me get back on my meds and get off of probation and out of the system.” “I saw something different in him (case manager), and he seemed genuine”.