Rapides DA and police jury set to resolve battle over forgiveness program

RAPIDES PARISH, La. (KALB) - The president of the Rapides Parish Police Jury is set to sign off on an agreement with the district attorney's office on Monday, putting an end to a nearly year-long battle between the two over the future of the DA's forgiveness program called pretrial intervention, or PTI.

(Source: KALB)

Pretrial intervention is a program offered by district attorneys around the state which is used as a means to avoid criminal prosecution for low-level and first-time offenders. But, the program in Rapides Parish hasn't been without controversy, largely due to the significant amount of fees the DA has been bringing in from the program that the parish said was putting them in a deficit. Those fees were once heavily rerouted from the criminal court fund, directly to the DA's office, which is used to pay for parish programs.

Over the summer, after an announcement from the parish's treasurer that the general fund was in a $400,000 deficit and the DA's office brought in $2 million in 2017 from PTI, the police jury voted to slash the DA's budget by $700,000. That set off a flurry of lawsuits, even ending up in the Third Circuit Court of Appeal, that's until a verbal agreement was reached last month.

"The concept is, obviously there is not enough money to fund all of the criminal justice stakeholders," said District Attorney Phillip Terrell. "It is a common problem throughout the state, particularly a problem here which is driven primarily by the lack of jail space. Basically, we reached an agreement that we think is going to be beneficial for the jury and to try to get to a situation where we can appropriately fund the DA's office as it should be funded to operate in the 21st century."

Here's a look at the deal:

The DA will implement a series of guidelines for PTI as developed by the Louisiana District Attorney's Association. If all goes according to plan, there should be an increase in revenue to the criminal court fund through what's earned in PTI and the LACE ticket program of about $550,000.

The police jury promises to amend the 2019 budget to allow for the DA to get half of the $700,000 that it slashed in the 2018 budget back. And, all pending lawsuits between the two will be dismissed.

"We took historical information from the last couple of years and the district attorney said, if I take this historical information, the number of tickets, and I apply the procedures and protocols under the model rules, I anticipate, this is the district attorney, that in the future there will be roughly $550,000 more funds that go into the criminal court fund," said Jimmy Faircloth, the attorney for the police jury in the matter. "He believes the disposition of the tickets will be roughly half towards PTI and half toward the criminal court fund."

According to the district attorney, it's a step for all in the right direction.

"The jury was very reasonable and I feel like we were and we came to an agreement that we can all live with," said Terrell. "The DA's office still takes a cut next year. I'm not able to do what I want to do, but we're going to make it and we have in place some ideas that we feel will aid the jury and will get us where we need to be eventually."

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