Jefferson County to receive more than $300,000 for court pilot p - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Jefferson County to receive more than $300,000 for court pilot project

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The average person arrested on a felony charge in Jefferson County will spend 161 days in jail before his or her case is resolved, more than a month above the average in Kentucky, according to statistics from the state.

But Jefferson County court officials hope those numbers may soon change.

The city and Jefferson Commonwealth's Attorney's Office are set to receive a $339,750 grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation to fund a two-year pilot project "to reduce felony case processing times," according to a metro council resolution introduced this week by Councilwoman Cheri Bryant Hamilton.

The grant must be approved by the council by Aug. 15 or it will be lost, Council President Jim King said at a meeting of the Metro Council Democrats Thursday. It is on the Aug. 14 council agenda.

If approved, two prosecutors and a paralegal from the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office would be assigned to handle felony cases in two district courtrooms.

"The whole idea is to move these cases more quickly, particularly for individuals who are in custody," said Commonwealth's Attorney Tom Wine in an interview.

The grant would pay for two entry-level prosecutors for two years, two re-assigned senior prosecutors and a paralegal.

Wine said the two experienced prosecutors would move to the district courtrooms and work to expedite the process of resolving felony cases, whether through amending, dismissal or getting the cases to a grand jury and into circuit court more quickly.

Currently, it takes about 120 days to get a case through the grand jury process from the time of arrests, Wine said. Officials are hoping to cut that time in half, he said.

"That would be a big savings," Wine said.

The pilot program would begin in November and a data collection and case tracking system would be developed to evaluate the program's performance, according to a July 24 letter from the foundation to Mayor Greg Fischer and Wine.

The Commonwealth's Attorney's Office would have to file reports to the foundation at the end of 2014 and 2015 as well as a final report in December 2016 including a narrative of what was accomplished.

Jefferson District Court Judge Sean Delahanty said the program should help with jail overcrowding some, but pointed out that the majority of defendants in Metro Corrections had already been indicted and were waiting for trial.

The pilot project would not cost the city any money. 

A study by the foundation of Kentucky inmate data released in November found there were "strong correlations" between the length of time low- and moderate- risk defendants were detained before trial and the likelihood they would re-offend. 

A spokesperson for the foundation did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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