10/25/10 — Wayne County searches for a new court liaison

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Wayne County searches for a new court liaison

By Gary Popp
Published in News on October 25, 2010 1:52 PM

Wayne County officials have begun searching to fill the position of court liaison. The job's focus is primarily to lower the inmate population in the Wayne County Jail, which is regularly overcrowded.

County officials hope filling the position will decrease the time inmates are waiting for first appearances. The job was created several years ago by the Wayne County Board of Commissioners to speed up the legal process and to reduce the jail population. It was eliminated two years ago when the person holding the job was fired after having been found to have submitted falsified work records.

Working directly under County Manager Lee Smith, the court liaison will work to get inmates, primarily low-level offenders without their own representation, in front of a judge. He or she also will work to keep court-appointed lawyers from neglecting their charges.

The jail has a capacity of 200 inmates. Last Tuesday, there were 266 inmates being housed in the jail, said Maj. Ray Smith of the Wayne County Detention Center.

"The population is as high as it has been in the last 12 years. We have only peaked at higher levels on a few occasions," Smith said.

Superior Court Judge Arnold Jones is a strong proponent of reintroducing the position to the county. Jones has said that keeping the number of inmates in the jail as low as possible is one of his chief goals. He has said in the past that maintaining an inmate in the jail costs between $50 and $60 per day.

This is not the first time that Wayne has someone serving as court liaison. The difference in the new job will be that the liaison will have a wider role, Jones said.

"The liaison position will not only benefit the Superior Court, but it will also be a tremendous asset to the Domestic Court," Jones said.

The courts' time will be better utilized, in respect to first appearances, appointment of attorney and other administrative procedures, Jones noted.

Ongoing technological advances at the courthouse are expected to help the liaison in getting the job done. A new video conferencing system will allow some courts to conduct first appearances without transferring inmates from the jail, and the liaison will assist inmates in that process. The video system is expected to be fully functional by Jan. 1.

With inmates waiting less time to see a judge, the hoped for result will be a lower tab for taxpayers to pick up.

The liaison also will assist in putting inmates on a path to eligibility for pretrial release programs or admission into the Day Reporting Center, which holds offenders to probationary standards.

"The main thrust of the position is to work daily to help regulate the jail population," Lee Smith said.

In addition, the court liaison will work to improve communication between the courts, the jail, the district attorney's office, the Sheriff's Office and the Day Reporting Center.

"This is a position that will do a lot of communicating," Smith said.

The right candidate would have an assorted work history, he said.

"We are looking for someone who has a history of dealing with law enforcement, the court system, investigations, and a legal background," Smith said.

The liaison also will be tasked with completing paperwork to expedite court cases.

The liaison will work 20 hours a week and earn an annual salary of $26,000. Smith said he is aiming to have the position filled by Dec. 1.