Pilot project off to slow start

Thursday, June 15th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- A state Corrections Department official saysa pilot project for community sentencing programs has taken much longer to get off the ground than originally expected.

After four months, only 87 offenders have been seen, instead of the 692 projected to have been seen in the 10 counties covered by the project.

The Legislature appropriated $1.4 million for the project. Less than $100,000 of that will be needed at the present rate, said Joy Hadwiger, regional administrator for the state Corrections Department.

"The whole thing has taken much longer to get off the ground than we ever thought it would," she said.

Hadwiger said judges and prosecutors have been slow to embrace the program.

"For a lot of people, community sentencing looks the same as probation," she said.

"I think we all thought everybody knew about and understood it, but what I think we've found is that people don't understand it."

The community corrections law allows nonviolent offenders who have not committed any of the so-called "11 deadly sins" to be
rehabilitated in the community instead of being sent to prison. The idea was to create more prison space.

Programs that could be used include drug and alcohol treatment, halfway houses, electronic monitoring, vocational technical training and domestic violence and anger management counseling.

A Level of Service Inventory would be taken to measure the chance of the person committing another offense. A person's job,
family and positive associates would be assessed as well as alcohol and drug problems, emotional and mental health and attitudes toward crime and authority.

Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris said he supports community sentencing in concept, but he said there is a public safety issue that is paramount. He also said the LSI offender
assessments have been hard to understand.

He said the reports are difficult to interpret and prosecutors aren't sure what treatment programs are available and whether
offenders should go to them.

Tulsa County projected 451 offenders for the program, but has seen only 45. Cherokee County anticipated 36 but has had 13. Grady
County expected 40 and has had 4.