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Officials working to keep reporting center in Albany

ALBANY, Ga. -- Local government officials are working to keep a center that many tout as both a cost-saver for taxpayers and a benefit for public safety from heading to Lee County, despite the fact that neither the city nor the county has managed to find a building in its inventories suitable for the program.

Three weeks ago, officials with the state Department of Corrections went before the Dougherty County Commission seeking help in locating an 8,500-square-foot building to house a Day Reporting Center for probationers.

Stan Cooper, the head of the DOC's Probation Operations division, said such centers have a proven track record of reducing recidivism and lowering costs by reducing the number of inmates housed at the Dougherty County Jail.

He said the department would like to have one in the Albany area, but because of budget cuts there are no funds to build or buy a building.

Instead, the DOC is seeking the city and county's help in reviewing their inventory of existing buildings to see if any matched corrections' needs.

Should an arrangement not be reached within Dougherty County, the state could base the facility in a building on the grounds at Lee State Prison outside of Leesburg.

At Monday's Dougherty County Commission meeting, Administrator Richard Crowdis told the commission the county had no such buildings in its possession but that the city was still reviewing its inventory to see if something could be found.

Assistant City Manager Wes Smith said Tuesday the city failed to find any existing property that met the demands of the state, but that officials were exploring other options, which included purchasing a building from a private owner or building one on vacant land.

Currently, 13 Day Reporting Centers are scattered throughout the state. Cooper told commissioners Sept. 21 that work done at the facilities cuts the number of probationers that fails conditions of their probation -- either by committing another criminal act or through substance abuse -- by between 14 and 24 percent.

In Albany and Dougherty County, there are 4,000 probationers with 2,100 considered to be on "active" probation, Cooper told the commissioners.

The concern for local officials is that if the building ends up in Lee County, the state would have to offer the program to the Southwestern Judicial Circuit.

Since that circuit covers six counties, fewer Dougherty County probationers would be able to use the program.