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Criminal Justice Advisory Board
 receives award

Susan Prasse

(4/14) Adams County CJAB recently earned the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency Criminal Justice Advisory Board Best Practices award. The award was announced March 24 on behalf of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) Committee on County Criminal Justice System Best Practices for the 21st Century.

The primary goal of the Adams County Criminal Justice Advisory Board (CJAB) is to make the community safer for residents, Commissioner Chairman Randy Phiel said in a press conference held at the courthouse in early April. "Secondly, their goal is to make all our judicial practices as effective as possible," Phiel continued. The county will officially receive the award at a ceremony on June 15. Commissioner Marty Karsteter Qually thanked the members saying, "You are doing what needs to be done to help the citizens of Adams County," "This award reflects that."

As well, Adams County Court of Common Pleas President Judge Michael George shared some of the history of the advisory board that started with 15 members in 2007. The board has now grown to 17 voting members, 35 associate members, and three sub-committees. They are focused on drug and alcohol abuse, mental health issues, as well as IT issues that the county is facing.

Reflecting on the success of the CJAB, George said "We had a mission to improve the quality of life within Adams Count by supporting the local criminal justice system through an ongoing forum for collaboration among key decision-makers." "The ongoing goal has been to create and coordinate opportunities, methods and processes within Adams County to improve the criminal justice system and lead toward more dignified, efficient, respectful and sustainable service to the community."

In addition to working closely with the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, George listed a number of accomplishments the advisory board has been responsible for bringing to the county in the last eight years - from focusing on educational efforts of heroin and prescription drug abuse, to partnering with probation services to offer supervision for people with mental health issues.

Other programs include Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), which is currently offered through the county's district attorney office. In January, CIT coordinator and county detective Eric Beyer put together a week-long program to help avoid criminalizing behavior that stems from mental illness. More than 20 people from across the county were part of the first-ever program. George said CJAB also has brought in $1.2 million in grant funding to benefit the county.

District Attorney Shawn Wagner, who has been involved on the board since its inception, said CJAB's goal is to make sure offenders go through the criminal justice system and come out as better people.

The district attorney's office has implemented a number of measures through CJAB, including the addition of prescription medication drop-off boxes throughout the county. "We are fortunate in Adams County because of our size," Wagner said. "We are able to come together and solve issues. I've worked in larger counties and you don't see this level of collaboration or cooperation."

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