City considers funding Day Reporting Center - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

City considers funding Day Reporting Center

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By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) – The city of Albany wants to move ahead with a plan to open a day reporting center for non-violent felons.   The state would run the center.     Similar centers are paid for with state money, but right now there's no money available.   

City leaders are willing to pick up some of the cost, but they want help from the county, too.  

A day reporting center is simply an alternative to throwing non-violent offenders and probationers in prison.  It provides substance abuse counseling, basic education and job skills, to help keep them out of trouble in the future, and Albany city commissioners say they hope to see one open here.

The Dougherty County jail is full nearly every day of the year, but not everyone who comes here is necessarily a danger to others.  That's why the state wants to move some of them into a day reporting center.  It's cheaper and can help rehabilitate inmates.

Asst. City Manager Wes Smith said, "These are people that are typically drug offenders, non-violent offenders that they are transitioning back into society."

A day reporting center would perform drug tests once a week, and conduct GED and job training so participants can have more success at finding a job once moved through and out of the judicial system.

"If it's someone they think is proper to rehabilitate and has the right tools to come back into society successfully, instead of sending them straight to jail, they may send them straight to this program," said Smith.

It's a program Commissioner Christopher Pike supports, but he wants the county to contribute money to the site.  He said, "That's traditionally a county responsibility and so while the city is willing to help the county, we're not willing to foot the whole bill for that and so we would like to see them come to the table and there's tremendous cost savings to the county by investing in this project, so we don't really see why they wouldn't come to the table."

Several sites have been proposed to the commission including an undisclosed location downtown.  Pike isn't sure he's comfortable with that.  He said, "Downtown Albany has a perception, though it's not true, that there's a lot of violence and crime going on downtown and we don't want to help fuel that misconception."

Especially since millions of dollars have been spent to improve the area.  Pike said, "Well, I just want to make sure that we balance revitalization efforts downtown with what we're trying to do with helping people coming out of the prison system."

People who come out and through this program will hopefully stay out.

The city commission tentatively voted to move forward with plans for the day center, if the county agrees to participate.  They hope to hold a joint meeting with county commissioners within the next two weeks to discuss the program.

The state already has a building available in Lee County, but that would focus on programs for people in the Southwestern judicial circuit not the Dougherty Circuit.

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