Rep. Frye has introduced HB 1068 which would create local justice advisory councils in each county. It would also add to the duties of the state’s “justice reinvestment advisory council” to include providing guidance to the local councils as well as reviewing state and local sentencing for disproportionality. The local council would consist of the chief public defender, the prosecutor, the sheriff, the head of the local community mental health center, the head of community corrections, the chief probation officer, a member of the board of commissioners, a member of the county council, and one of the local judges. (A couple of those positions don’t necessarily exist in every county so there might be some modifications.) The purpose of the local councils is to advocate for what I’ll glibly characterize as a kinder, gentler, criminal justice system.
Just because I’m being glib, doesn’t mean I’m not in favor of such things. It calls for the councils to promote “evidence based” approaches to sentencing and making greater use of things like community corrections, problem solving courts, mental health & addiction treatment, pre-trial diversion, and other rehabilitation alternatives. I’m a utilitarian at heart, so if we can get offenders on the straight and narrow, making them happier, healthier, productive members of society; I don’t mind at all if we lose out on a little punishment along the way. The bill also calls for the local councils to review and study stuff and make recommendations. They’ll also submit annual reports to the state council.
I guess I’m skeptical about how much of an impact these local councils will ultimately have. But the goals seem laudable, at any rate.