Program offers 'quick' option for probation violators

by: Mark Becker Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

Probation officers Shawn Gaskin and Dave Windham are about to check on one of their clients.

If they find he's broken the rules, he could headed for court, where a judge could send him to prison.

With court backlogs, that could take months and probation officers say that can send the wrong message.

"We don't want to wait six months to address that. We want to address that now," said Tracy Lee, who supervises probation officers in Mecklenburg County.

Lee said they've started offering violators another option they call a "quick dip." Violators can agree to go to jail immediately for two or three days and avoid the possibility of going to prison for months or even years.

"It's a chance they would take. It's either two or three days right now or it could be 10 to 12 months if we wait two or three months to go in front of a judge," Dave Windham, a chief probation officer, said.

The probationer Windham and his partner visited on that day did not have any violations, but he says the quick dip deal makes sense.

"Oh yeah, absolutely," he told Eyewitness News. "Not to have to sit in the county jail for three or four months? Oh yeah, I'd take that deal."

Not all probationers agree. Windham said they have the option to go to court and take their chances.

When they do accept the quick dip offer, Windham said it can defuse potentially volatile situations and particularly those involving domestic violence.

"That's safety—public safety, and that's our No. 1 job, public safety,” he said.

The quick dip program does have its limits. Probationers can only spend a maximum of 18 days in jail over a three-month period. After that they have to go to court and face a judge.

The program is too new to have any long-term results, but in the end, probation officers say it will save courts time, and may make violators less likely to reoffend.

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