CHARLOTTE, Mich. — The Eaton County Commission will vote next week on whether to sign off on several resolutions allowing leaders to apply for grant dollars to pay for the County’s specialty courts for the next year.
Eaton County has several specialty courts that offer alternatives to people who come before judges with criminal cases.
Instead of being sentenced to serve time, many are ordered to go through treatment programs and in some cases are paired up with mentors who can help them fix the root issues that led them to being charged with crimes.
The specialty courts include the Adult Circuit Drug Court, the District Hybrid Court, Sobriety Court, Veterans Court and the Swift and Sure Sanctions Probation program.
In all, eight resolutions would need to be approved to allow the grant applications to be submitted to the State.
County Commission Chair, Jeremy Whittum says he isn’t sure how much funding will be requested in the grant applications but said it takes about five-million dollars a year to run Eaton County’s Court system.
Most of the money for specialty courts comes from state grant dollars.
“In all probability if the State of Michigan doesn’t renew these grant applications we would have a serious reduction in our specialty court. That would in turn seriously impact people who are looking for assistance and help and individualized treatment,” said Whittum.
Judge Julie O’Neill runs the Hybrid Court and says the grant money is making a big difference in the lives of the people who come before her.
“Its a hybrid court because we allow people to enter it who have a drunk driving second or higher where it would be a third like a felony or if they have a drug case that’s a felony case it gets reduced to a misdemeanor or use for the purpose of entering the program,” said Judge O’Neill.what
Bobby Ficklin Junior works as a part-time magistrate for Eaton County’s District Court but in his full-time profession as a criminal lawyer he has seen first-hand how important the specialty courts are.
“I had a client one time. She had an alcohol problem. Instead of her being sentenced to jail she went to Sobriety Court, was able to get rehabilitation. She ended up going to rehab and now she’s doing great,” said Ficklin Jr.
The Eaton County Commission will vote on the funding renewal at its next meeting on Wednesday.
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