Judicial Branch to cut community programs
Facing $77 million in cuts under the finalized budget, the state’s Judicial Branch has announced new actions to close the gap, including a plan to scale back community-based programs for juvenile and adult offenders.
The previously announced layoffs coupled with a hiring freeze is projected to save $40 million. The branch is continuing to evaluate whether to close any courthouses. Branch spokeswoman Rhonda Stearley-Hebert said no final decisions have been made.
Judicial officials announced in May that 239 employees would be laid off. The toll will reach 300 workers with the elimination of 61 temporary positions at courthouses across the state. The temporary positions are slated for termination on June 22 while the original 239 layoffs will occur the next day, June 23.
Another 200 positions will remain unfilled as they become vacant through attrition over the course of the coming fiscal year.
The branch also plans to save $14.5 million by scaling back its community-based programs for juvenile and adult offenders – which Stearley-Hebert described as “successful” and “important.” The programs will take across-the-board cuts, including the elimination of some programs.
The cuts were “unavoidable” given the size of the funding reduction, Stearley-Hebert said.
“The specific program reductions that are being made have been selected to preserve the core elements of the adult and juvenile services programs, and to protect, to the greatest extent possible, those programs that have proven to be the most effective at reducing recidivism,” Stearley-Hebert said.
Stephen Grant, executive director of the Court Support Services Division (CSSD), said that the branch’s criteria also include program utilization, case loads and waiting lists.
The division’s director of administration, Brian Hill, said programs facing cuts or facility closures range from an adult residential facility for substance abuse treatment to a juvenile residential facility for girls and transitional housing.
CSSD relies significantly on private contracting to provide its services. Grant said the cuts represent a 25 percent reduction in CSSD’s previous contracting budget, which pays for about 125 contracts across 70 vendors.
He said that, while certain programs have been cut based on their success rate, the division “would have not cut any of these programs” if it had the choice. He said CSSD’s programs focus on changing behavior, and he questioned whether there would be “collateral implications” as a result of the cuts.
“Will cutting a bed (in a CSSD program) affect the Department of Correction?” Grant asked, adding that the answer will become more clear over time as the cuts take effect.
In addition to the hiring freeze and program cuts, the Judicial Branch plans to identify more savings in operating expenses.
Stearley-Hebert said the branch plans to save at least $6.7 million in facilities expenses in the coming fiscal year.
Correction: An earlier version of this story erroneously said the reduction of 61 Judicial Branch temporary workers was a new development, but it had been previously announced.
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