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Letters to the Editor

On Probation

This letter is written in response to the article "Avoiding False Economics in State Budget Cuts" written by Joe Sullivan which appeared in the May 6-13 issue of the Metro Pulse. While Mr. Sullivan is obviously cheerleading for the Community Alternative to Prisons Program (CAPP), he has neglected to thoroughly investigate some of the statements in his article and has misrepresented others.

I acknowledge that CAPP does an excellent job at supervising those placed under its jurisdiction. As a Probation Officer for Knox County for the past three years, I have had opportunities to work in a limited capacity with certain people at CAPP. This has occurred mainly when we have shared the supervision of an offender. Yes, I will admit that the CAPP program is more stringent than Knox County Probation, but I must also point out that while, according to Mr. Sullivan, CAPP supervises 190 offenders, Knox County Probation currently supervises 3,100 "burglars, drug dealers, and other nonviolent offenders." The number of 1,300 proposed by Mr. Sullivan may simply be the number of offenders supervised by State Probation, which is a separate entity from Knox County Probation or it may just be an uninformed guess.

Knox County Probation is a Knox County department independent of the Sheriff's Department, but with close ties. We have a staff of 10 probation officers, three secretarial/support personnel, an assistant director, and a director. With over 3,000 total clients, each officer is responsible for the supervision of approximately 300 offenders. These caseloads are comprised of clients who have been convicted of misdemeanor charges and have been sentenced through either the Knox County Sessions or Criminal Courts. While these clients have been convicted of misdemeanor charges, many have committed felony offenses which have been reduced to misdemeanors via plea bargaining. Once sentenced, Knox County Probation becomes responsible for supervising these offenders to the best of our ability.

Knox County Probation Officers are responsible for ensuring that our clients seek out and complete the Drug and Alcohol treatment, Psychological Treatment, DUI School, Restitution, and other orders given to them by the Courts. If they fail to do so, it becomes our responsibility to bring it to the attention of the Court for further action. Knox County Probation returns to the county approximately $420,000 per year in collected probation fees and returns approximately $240,000 per year to victims of crime in Knox County through restitution payments.

Again, I admit that the CAPP program is an effective and valuable component of the criminal justice system here in Knox County. However, no amount of drug treatment, vocation training counseling, time, or money can effectively change a person who has no desire to change. There comes a time when even an intensive program like CAPP will not redirect a person's life because it is seen as a punishment and not a privilege.

Mr. Sullivan, I encourage you to dig deeper and get the whole picture. The Criminal Justice System is not a series of unrelated agencies, it is a series of inter-related, inter-dependent agencies that must work in conjunction with one another. While this system is not perfect by any means, I implore you, Mr. Sullivan, please do not cheerlead for CAPP while slighting the other agencies in Knox County that deal with Post-Sentence supervision.

Carlos Harmon
Knox County Probation Officer

Love Thy Neighbor

I am not a regular Metro Pulse reader but I do refer to your listings for family entertainment. After reading the strange Gamut feature ["A Safe, Well-Lighted Place" by Betty Napier White, Vol. 9, No. 19] in your reader-produced issue, I will no longer keep copies around my home! Miss Napier White's article was not just a piece about our lovely city but an attempt to promote alternative lifestyles by describing gays and pierced freaks as praiseworthy! I am also upset that a paper with your liberal agenda would tolerate Miss Napier White's mean-spirited remarks about fraternity and sorority members. I thought you people loved everybody! Maybe the author was mad that the Greek system would not accept a weirdo like her who probably likes Marilyn Manson! No wonder she writes letters for a paper only read by bleeding heart malcontents!

Amy Kellner

P.S. My preacher helped me write this!