Among the seven bills discussed by the House Judiciary Committee Thursday was Senate Bill 307, authorizing community corrections programs to operate pretrial release programs. Those programs could range from work release to decreasing the cost of an issued bond.
The purpose of the program is to decrease the cost of counties having to hold these people in jails. Pilot programs have been implemented in a few counties such as Ohio and Wood.
The programs would be voluntary for each county and would allow the release of persons without bond in certain circumstances. It would also implement extra monitoring on those released on bond.
One of the sponsors of the bill, Senator Donald Cookman attended the House Judiciary meeting to field questions.
Delegate John Ellem asked what the circumstances for someone to be eligible for the program were because as he explained that in his home county of Wood the pilot program was not finding many candidates.
“As you know the proposed legislation now is not mandatory and counties could opt to be in or out of it whichever they chose,” Cookman responded. “It would be for nonviolent offenders basically.”
After further explanation of the bill Delegate Meshea Poore determined the pretrial programs could possibly bolster the current system in place.
“So this is really tightening up to some extent our bond process now to require them to pay the fee that they currently have to pay to the court and then there’s the additional step of having to report to that person and even give more addition money to the counties if they meet that requirement?” Poore asked.
“I think so,” Cookman said. “The bottom line it’s still up to the the magistrate or circuit judge as to whether this will be applied or not.”
The committee approved the bill to be reported to the floor with the recommendation that it do pass.