2016 Rapid Resolution prisoner program focuses on judicial effic - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

2016 Rapid Resolution prisoner program focuses on judicial efficiency

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Columbus judges and attorneys are announcing their goal to process at least 500 cases in 2016, and it's all through the Rapid Resolution program.

Since its inception six months ago, more than 330 cases have been closed. As a result, a foyer in the Muscogee County jail was shutdown saving taxpayers close to $500,000. 

"The process for our case was very, very quick, within a couple of weeks a trial date set," says Deborah Pfeiffer, a victim in a case that was processed through the rapid resolution program. 

Pfeiffer says she's thankful that her family received closure in less than four months. Her case would have taken about eight months, according to Judge Gil McBride.

"It was a blessing, it was really a blessing" says Pfeiffer.

Judge McBride says in just six months the Rapid Resolution program has already made the Muscogee County justice system more efficient by shortening the time it takes to resolve cases that are nonviolent or low level offenses.

"So you might have a simple theft by shoplifting that is on pace with a home invasion rape case so it didn't seem fair for them to take the same amount of time," says District Attorney Julia Slater. 

Now the DA along with the Muscogee County judges, and public defenders can devote their time to the more complicated cases.

The Rapid Resolution program was launched in July of 2015 closing nearly 400 cases before the end of the year with funding from the sheriff's office.

The goal for 2016 is to process between 500 to 600 cases. These cases will provide relief to the trial judges by lightening their workload, save tax payers money by cutting down the number of inmates in the county jail and bring closure to victims quicker.

"The positive impact it has on victims. We've moved over 400 cases and over half of those cases have victims," says Slater.

One misconception many people have about rapid resolution is that it means rapid release and McBride says that's not true.

According to the Muscogee County Sheriff's Office, out of 327 cases that went through the program last year, 138 of defendants were released the same day. Also, 46 were released on a later date, 75 were sentenced to prison, 28 sentenced to jail in another county, 25 were returned to jail and 15 were sentenced to a rehab facility.

So how does it work? A designated team will evaluate lower level cases and if they meet a certain criteria, the defendant would bypass the indictment or arraignment process. This could eliminate two to six months of time spent waiting on trial.  

Judge McBride says he is meeting with the DA and public defender this week to discuss their goal for 2016 of processing more than 500 cases. 

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