Four state grants bring almost $325,000 in for court programs

Hollandsentinel.com

By Karen Bota

IONIA COUNTY, Mich.

People served by the court system, and the community at large, will benefit from four grants for almost $325,000, recently awarded to Ionia County from the Michigan Supreme Court, State Court Administrative Office. Funding runs through Sept. 30.

The grants are:

  • Office of Highway Safety Planning Grant: $80,000 for the 8th Circuit Court Drug Court program;
  • Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Grant: $30,000 for the 8th Circuit Court Drug Court program;
  • Michigan Veterans Treatment Court Grant: $89,707 for the 64A District Court Veterans Court program;
  • Court Performance Innovative Fund Grant: $125,000 for a new Pretrial Services program in Ionia County.A $166,000 grant was previously awarded to Sobriety Court, bringing the total to $490,000 in funding for Ionia County’s specialty court programs.

Drug court grants will allow for the continuation and improvement of the court-supervised treatment program for non-violent offenders who abuse or are dependent on any controlled substance or alcohol.

The veterans court grant will pay for treatment services in Ionia County for veterans involved with the court system, rather than at the VA Medical Center in Battle Creek or Grand Rapids, and also provide local mentors, according to Chief Judge Ray Voet, who administers the Veterans Court.

“Unlike Sobriety Court or Drug Court, where the treatment provider is at the table with us, we don’t have that luxury. We don’t get to have dialogue, and that is one of the key elements for success,” he said, adding that treatment will include the Seeking Safety program for soldiers who have witnessed trauma, and anger management. “Having a mentor — that fellow brother or sister who’s had your similar experiences and has now learned to manage their own demons — is a support network for veterans.”

The Pretrial Services program is new to Ionia County (and only Kalamazoo and Oakland counties are doing similar programs), and will monitor individuals who are out on bond to ensure they are complying with the conditions of bond to keep citizens safe, Voet said. The program will include a full-time pretrial probation officer and a part-time clerical position, both paid for by the grant

“The role will be an awful lot like a (typical) probation officer. They will keep a close eye on people who otherwise might be sitting in jail awaiting trial,” said Voet, adding that, for example, blood tests requested by the prosecutor can take six to eight months to come back. “If they violate — test positive or dirty — they’ll go back to jail. It’s about balancing the goals of treating the individual in the system and public safety.”

Jail overcrowding has been a “long-standing problem,” Voet said, and each time jail occupancy goes up, law enforcement and courts try to manage the population number without “lowering the standards of safety and what is tolerated in our community.