The members of Ashley County Quorum Court were told this month that a private company is no longer used to handle the district court’s probation funds.
District Court Judge Reid Harrod told the court that he wanted to set up a new fund within the county to manage the probation fees.
In the past, Ashley County District Court had a private company who both collected probation fees and managed probationers. They are no longer working with the district and — unlike on circuit court levels — the state doesn’t provide a similar service.
Harrod said some other counties that are also in the Tenth Judicial District are facing challenges because of the change. He said that Chicot County has completely given up on the probation system and that it just simply isn’t given in Chicot at the district level.
Currently, Ashley County still has probationers and the court clerks have been handling everything just as probation officers would. Harrod said that — though it’s time consuming and requires loopholes — he feels it is important because he wants to rehabilitate people as much as he can.
Harrod said probation officers are the kind of officers who help people get safely back in a car and who work to help them get back to their jobs or get a job if needed.
“Some people would never follow the steps to earn back their license or even start looking for a job, if it wasn’t for the guidance of their probation officers,” he said.
There are two divisions to Ashley County’s district court, one in Hamburg and one in Crossett. Harrod said right now the probation money, which is approximately $25 per month per probationer, is being handled by each individual city.
Harrod wants to put that money together into a county fund that would be overseen like every other county fund — that is, by the quorum court.
The only difference would be that, because of the separate divisions in Crossett and Hamburg, some of the money would still be handled in the cities and he wouldn’t be able to use the funds without approval from all three municipal bodies, the two cities and the county.
A justice made a motion to accept his proposal, but the issue still has to go before the Hamburg and Crossett city council members. If the three groups can work out an arrangement, then district court probation services will continue.
Some of the quorum court members had issues about the way Harrod was planning to pay the clerks who are working as both clerks and probation officers. Harrod talked about bonuses using the probation fees. Justice Ron Miller said that he would be concerned about that because they try to keep all of their employees equal when it comes to pay, if one area starts giving bonuses it might raise questions.
Other concerns raised included the fact that the clerks are not exactly county employees. The court ultimately approved Harrod’s proposal contingent upon Hamburg and Crossett’s agreement.
In other news Justice Ronnie Wheeler announced, that though there had been no hospital board meeting, the quorum court members of the hospital committee had met and started working on a plan to get regular meetings going again.
The hospital is still closed to the public so Wheeler said when they do start meeting again it will have to be in the courthouse.
The justices also approved a new plan for how the county will handle leave and sick leave because of COVID-19.
The plan was approved and set to expire when the governor declares there is no longer a public emergency.