WALKER-No one monitored people released on bail until Cass County started a program in the last year with a Minnesota Department of Public Safety grant to begin tracking people from the time they are arrested.

Greg Herzog, public safety department program manager, told the county board Tuesday the new program saves money for corrections and directs people sooner to services they need.

Cass Probation Director Jim Schneider believes the program ultimately will keep more people from reoffending.

Probation Officer Travis Fisher runs the program for Cass. He evaluates each person arrested for their risk to reoffend. He then meets two to three times a month with high risk people who are out on bail and at least monthly with those of medium risk.

Each person released on bail must call a phone number each morning to find out whether they must report for drug and alcohol testing that day. It is a random selection, so they don't know ahead when they will be tested.

Fisher refers people for chemical dependency treatment immediately while they wait for court hearings rather than after they are convicted or sentenced. He also makes referrals for mental health assistance and for education or employment or housing help.

Schneider said, based on people who have gone through the pre-trial program so far, they are finding people are least likely to show up for a court hearing if it is a contested hearing. Probation staff members now call people ahead to remind them of court dates and encourage them to appear, he said.

Probation is working on ways to help people find transportation to court hearings, he said, because he has found some people on Leech Lake Reservation do not have anyone in their household who has a driver license.

Since the program began last winter, probation has evaluated 177 people for risk to reoffend. Of those, 78 were considered high risk, 70 were moderate risk and 29 were low risk. Their offenses included 74 for controlled substances, 30 for domestic assault, 19 for assault and 54 for other offenses.

There have been five conditions of release violations. These resulted in re-arrests. Thirteen people currently are on warrant for arrest status.

Probation has made 76 referrals for chemical dependency treatment, six for mental health assistance and three for education, employment or housing help.

Of the 66 people Cass had in jail June 24, 45 were in pretrial status, and 21 were post-conviction. Evaluations ranked 49 as high risk, six as moderate and one as low. Ten people had not been classified.

There currently are 78 people on pretrial release supervision. Of those, 24 are high risk, 40 moderate risk and 14 low risk.

Fisher said one goal is to encourage judges to set low enough bail for low risk offenders, so they can get back to work as soon as possible and not lose their jobs.