County’s pretrial team

Pictured is Lincoln County’s pretrial team, from left, Jeff Hoey, Jim Kellenberger, Amy Yates and Sheriff Curtis Landers.

At the regular meeting of the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners July 19, Lt. Jamie Russell, commander of the Lincoln County Jail, addressed the board as July 18-24 was declared Pretrial Services Week.

Lincoln County’s pretrial services program was funded through a Bureau of Justice assistance grant, Russell explained, consisting of two pretrial specialists and a pretrial counselor and supervised by a corrections sergeant.

A partnership with Communities Helping Addicts Negotiate Change Effectively provides a full-time peer mentor to help with client needs and support.

When housing was identified as a barrier for many clients, a partnership with Lincoln County Health and Community Services enabled the team to secure a house. Since February of 2019, 69 clients have been housed — the pretrial team fulfilling a critical role in maintaining contact with and offering services to those who have been cited and released for criminal offenses or released from jail prior to their court dates.

The pretrial team has a passion for their work, Russell told the commissioners, constantly challenging themselves to think outside the box while providing a safe and secure environment for clients.

“Lincoln County pretrial services gave me an opportunity that jail couldn’t provide me. It gave me a chance to get to know myself, and most importantly, to forgive myself when I take accountability,” Russell read testimony from a prior client.

“Since I’ve been released from jail, I’ve been able to accomplish more than I ever thought possible. Today, I remember where I was, and I look at where I am now and can’t wait for what t the future brings. I’ve learned when I take accountability, I am present, and when I am present, I am living.”

Russell told the commissioners this is exactly what the team hopes and wishes for all our pretrial clients. “We know we won’t have this impact on everyone, but you never know when something you say on an action you show is the time it will stick.”

Russell continued, “This team continues to amaze me, and I hope you agree we should all be proud of our pretrial team.”

Board Chair Doug Hunt agreed. We heard evidence today, he said, that the pretrial program really makes a difference and is a significant factor in reducing recidivism. “Keep up the good work,” Hunt added.

Commissioner Kaety Jacobson acknowledged every few months the board receives a similar such heartfelt letter written by a client or a family member, expressing appreciation for the program and its services.

Commissioner Claire Hall noted what she called the “key element:” Securing the three year, $750,000 Department of Justice assistance grant which launched other initiatives to divert people from the justice system, and give them the tools and opportunities to turn their lives around.

Also of note during the meeting, Jaleen Cook, assistant personnel director, introduced 27 newly hired with the county to the commissioners, which included four COVID-response workers and an epidemiologist-communicable disease investigator.

Luis Aruajo was recognized for his five years of employment with the district attorney’s office. Jennifer Monroe and Melissa Baker were acknowledged after 15 years working in the district attorney’s office and Health and Human Services, respectively.

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