Parish considers hiring bond officers

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 19, 2006

VIDALIA &8212; A multi tasker is what Judge Kathy Johnson wants if a bond officer position is created in Concordia Parish.

Johnson said she needs the officer to administer drug screens for those arrested, check curfews and monitor counseling attendance. The officer would also explain the charges brought against those arrested for the possibility of a lighter parole and probation conditions.

The officer could also monitor attendance for the Concordia Parish Schools if the school board agrees, Johnson said.

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&8220;A bond officer would be a liaison between the arresting agency and the judge&8217;s office in obtaining more information about the individuals being arrested, Johnson said.

The Concordia Parish Police Jury would create the position. The jury would be responsible for assigning the officer to a judge, leaving the judge as the instructor of the officer&8217;s actions.

The officer would in turn report findings to the judge to possibly alter the conditions of probation or bond. A bond officer, or &8220;uninterested party,&8221; would allow a judge to receive details to help find out exactly who was involved and responsible for the violation, she said.

&8220;Judges are like umpires or referees,&8221; Johnson said. &8220;It is not our job to support any other agency. A bond officer would be new and different and it should have been put in place years ago.&8221;

A bond officer&8217;s salary would be dispersed by the police jury, leaving jury President Melvin Ferrington unsure of any actions, he said. Ferrington said the position would be a positive addition, but funding in an already tight budget will have to be studied. Johnson has made the request to the jury on two different occasions in working toward creating the position, but no actions have been taken.

Johnson&8217;s ideas on the funding include a charge of $40 dollars to each person arrested if the officer&8217;s duties are needed. Some are charged with heavy fines or remain in jail to long and the officer would track these things, keeping court processes current, she said.

Johnson said approximately 1,000 people are arrested each year. One half of those possibly qualify for bond reductions, she said. If a surplus in funds exists after charges are collected, the police jury will receive the money.

&8220;I think a bond officer will help everybody and pay for itself,&8221; Johnson said.

Currently drug tests, curfew checks and checks on judge&8217;s orders for those on probation are not strictly upheld, she said. High numbers of individuals in jail and heavy workloads for existing officers create a need for the bond officer, Johnson said.

Concordia Parish is one of a few parishes that does not have a bond officer, Johnson said. The idea came from an East Baton Rouge Parish judge, she said.

&8220;The problem now is I&8217;m not getting these reports from the officers,&8221; Johnson said. &8220;The people arrested need evaluations for treatment and right now there is nobody doing this.&8221;