Dougherty County District Attorney's Office Pilot Programs
The Honorable Ken Hodges and the Dougherty County District Attorney's Office not only prosecute criminal cases but also are pro-active in the community. Education is a major step in the prevention of criminal activity and the District Attorney's office is taking steps to help the youth of the community achieve these goals. Student Attendence Review Board (S.A.R.B)
Initiated in 1998 by District Attorney Ken Hodges and former Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Green. The Student Attendance Review Board (S.A.R.B.) is a partnership between the Dougherty County Office of the District Attorney and the Dougherty County School System
specifically designed to address the problem of school truancy. In the State of Georgia, school attendance is mandatory for any child between the ages of 6 to 16. It is well recognized that truancy is a major precursor to juvenile delinquency and adult criminality. The S.A.R.B. approach is one of prevention and intervention, holding parents and students accountable for excessive school absences, whether excused or unexcused.
The Board, which convenes every other month, consists of five representatives of the Dougherty County School System
and an Assistant District Attorney from the District Attorney's office. Based on a referral received from school counselors, the student is summonsed to appear at the meeting along with his or her parent or guardian. The meetings are closed to the public as confidential academic, personal and legal information about the juvenile is presented. After considering the parent/student explanations for the reported absences, the Board has the option of providing a referral for whatever school, medical or community assistance is needed, placing the parent/child under and attendance contract, or referring the student and/or parent for prosecution in juvenile or adult court.
The goals of the program are to improve school attendance through parental and child accountability, addressing attendance problems at the earliest possible time before the child's behavior is ingrained and while the parent still exercises control over the child (pre-high school) and long term reduction of delinquency, adult criminality and joblessness.
Albany Technical College
and the Dougherty County District Attorney's office have joined forces to create "New Heights", a program that gives nonviolent first offenders a second chance by getting an education instead of going to jail. This program is an opportunity for people who have made a mistake to get an education, to get a good job, and hopefully to get to resolve some of their individual problems.
The District Attorney's office will screen and select appropriate candidates and refer them to the state probation office, which operates the pretrial intervention program. The administrator of the probation program will monitor participants in the New Heights program. After orientation, participants will be referred to an area appropriate to their level of education and development, such as adult literacy and GED programs. They can then start on their choice of specialized career training.
Offenders have two years to complete a program at Albany Tech and their cases are pending while they are in school. Albany Tech programs generally take two years to complete, but if a they will be granted more time. Prosecutors may also require special conditions like community service in addition to going to school. If they fail to complete the program, then they have to go to trial. The main incentive to this program is the opportunity to eliminate a criminal record by successfully completing the program. Violent offenders will not be offered the program.
New Heights will hopefully be a detour sign and an alternate path for persons those who are headed down the road of criminality. This program is intended to be another sincere and practical effort to meet people halfway. The program will throw them out one more "life ring". Albany Tech and the Dougherty County District Attorney's Office are hoping to replace potential "burdens" on society with self-fulfilled, productive, and law-abiding citizens.