I would like to share a success story about reform in our county government, a government who has often times been slow to adopt change. Our Superior Court, County Attorney’s Office, Public Defender, Adult Probation and Sheriff’s Office have worked together to make justice more efficient and saving our Pinal taxpayers millions in the process.
The Early Disposition Court (EDC) quickens the justice process by bringing the defendant before a Superior Court Judge with an agreement hammered out between the prosecutor (county attorney) and the public defender (represents the defendant or the accused). The agreement doesn’t compromise or reduce the sentence a suspect would receive, yet skips the months long process of interviews, depositions, court delays, scheduling conflicts, time for trial preparation and the seemingly endless back and forth negotiating that typically goes on between lawyers.
Presiding Superior Court Judge Carter Olson, brought all interested parties together to work out the details of this streamlined court process. County Attorney Jim Walsh and his Chief Criminal Prosecutor Richard Platt, along with Public Defender Mary Wisdom, Court Administrator Stephanie Jordan, Chief of Adult Probation Tom Zweig and myself. The man behind the scene is special Judge Hank Gooday. Judge Gooday is the Judge Olson appointed quarterback for the success of these reforms.
The result was nearly $2,500,000 in saving in the first year alone. The courts will no longer get bogged down with countless cases and seemingly endless motions from attorneys that take their time from actual trials. Defendants, or those accused of serious crimes will now be dealt with immediately, they will be offered the appropriate punishment by the County Attorney and if an agreement is reached – the case is over. If sentenced, the convicted with be escorted into our Jail, or process through Adult Probation. It won’t drag on for up to six months and thousands in expense for the court appointed attorney.
Our Pinal County Jail will see a reduction in our local inmates and therefore allow us to contract empty beds to the US Marshals or ICE detainees. Already, we are expecting $1-3 million in additional revue to the county’s general fund due to increased contract beds. This revenue helps the county pay down county debt service and brings additional revenue to avoid further cuts.
The Sheriff’s Office has placed a full time Deputy in the Superior Court to immediately process these cases with a new automated finger print scanner, that matches the full finger and palm prints to the charges. Deputy Eric Larson is a seven year Patrol Deputy who will perform these duties and also provide armed protection to any threat posed to our courts and public.
All of this is great news, while tax dollars are scarce. It couldn’t have come at a better time, while revenues have dipped and 160 full time county staff positions have been eliminated. These are positive reforms that bring efficiency to county government. The savings can reduce further reductions in core government services, like public safety, road improvements and public health.
Thank you to Judge Olson and other county leaders for their innovation and wiliness to change from the normal way we have always done business. It is heartening to see efficiencies in our justice system, which results in significant financial saving and more immediate justice for victims and the accused.
Paul Babeu, Sheriff
Pinal County, Arizona
Visit Sheriff Babeu @ www.sheriffpaul.com