Criminal Justice Consultants - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

09/13/07 - Nacogdoches

Criminal Justice Consultants

A consultant visit brings the many levels of the justice system together. The observers found this doesn't happen very often in Nacogdoches County. Consultant Robert Cushman said, " The agencies are a little more isolated. Organizational silos, if you will. "

But each agency plays a role in the jail population. Consultants illustrate that through a jail analysis. In this case, a two month snapshot of jail and court statistics from 2001 and 2007 show arrests are increasing and jail stays are longer, yet crime is down. Cushman explained, " A lot of the data we've prepared I think is tough. People just never have seen it before, so it's going to take a awhile for them to access it. I think we have made some people defensive. "

At one point county attorney Jeff Davis sounded as if he was cross examining the consultant.  " Would you admit to me sir that you're numbers are largely incomplete, he asked. The consultant answered,  "No". The advisor who contracts with the National Institute of Corrections did acknowledge the data could be extended upon and balanced. They advise leaders to do so. The knowledge leads to action. Not to mention it's the public's right to know.

That's what brought Michael Collins to the meeting. He said, " At the moment nobody has specific responsibility for analyzing those numbers and presenting them to the public. " News reports on the consultant's fact finding mission led to Charles Fields' visit. He claims attempts were made to persuade him to plea out on a charge in order to clear a docket. In his opinion that's not justice.    " Yes, I got that impression, but if you're not guilty of a crime I don't want to take the easy way out,"  said Fields.

County Judge Joe English, who took advantage of the free opportunity to receive the review  believes the dialogue from leaders and citizens as healthy. He said, " I don't think any one in Nacogdoches County wants us to build another jail and so I think we need to look at some different avenues. "

The road to possible change is just beginning. Finding new ways to approach problems can be difficult when the old ways are so familiar. The primary recommendation from the private consultants is to develop a criminal justice coordination committee. More suggestions will come in a written report.

by Donna McCollum

Story provided by KTRE Raycom Media. This material may not be published, boradcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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