The Mental Health Court held its first graduation in October. State and county officials, members of the Georgia Court of Appeals, the Cobb judiciary, MHC staff, participants, and guests gathered to honor the 7 participants who had completed all of the requirements and conditions of their mental health court participation. For the seven graduates, their level of need, based on an objective assessment given at entry and at graduation, has decreased an average of 67 percent. Such a decrease demonstrates the effectiveness, societal benefits and power a Mental Health Court can bring to a community.
In 2015, The Cobb County Adult Drug Treatment Court graduated 41 participants from the program. The DTC also started an alumni group in an effort to assist and support current participants. This alumni group organizes social activities in the community to support a fun, sober lifestyle.
Obtaining a high school diploma or completing the GED is a requirement to graduate from the Adult Drug Treatment Court Program. This year the Drug Treatment Court started a GED program to assist current participants prepare for the GED test. The GED program consists of volunteers and current participants that tutor in the four different subject areas, to help prepare participants to take and pass the GED. In 2015, the DTC had five participants pass the GED test and has 16 participants preparing to take the GED test.
The Veterans Treatment and Accountability Court celebrated its anniversary in June and currently has 24 participants. The VTC recently contracted with a local provider to develop a new treatment plan that offers an expansion of services currently provided to VTC participants through the VA. With four participants in the final phase, the VTC is on course to hold its first graduation in late March. Upon graduation, the VTC fully expects each participant to become a contributing member to his or her community, and become an example for others to follow.
The Cobb County Drug Lab is an independent on-site laboratory, specializing in providing comprehensive and quality drug screening services for the Cobb County judicial complex and support agencies. The drug lab provides time saving, economical and accurate point of collection analysis, while maintaining the highest compliance with nationally recognized professional testing standards. The drug lab opened the summer of 2007, since that time it has steadily increased the amount of testing provided. Since 2008, the lab has more than doubled the number of tests performed from a total of 10,139 tests, to a reported 30,468 tests at the end of 2014. As of October 2015, the lab has performed 25,656 tests, and is expected to continue on the same upward growth pattern. The lab recently added two specialized tests this year for opiates and synthetic THC to address the rising drug trend in our community. As an added convenience to customers, the lab will begin accepting credit cards payments in January 2016.
“From The Court to The Classroom” is an interactive program designed to educate Cobb County students on the court system and its functionality by both hosting mock trials at the courthouse [You Be The Judge], and also by allowing Superior Court judges to visit schools and speak with students [Court 2 You]. During the 2015-2016 school year, the Court 2 You program has recognized a 28 percent increase in school visits from last year; offering more schools the opportunity to take advantage of this convenient and cost free way to learn about the judicial process. Interest in the You Be The Judge program has also increased drastically amongst Cobb schools this year. For the current school year, You Be The Judge has realized an 82 percent increase in participation from last year, and of those participating schools, 17 percent have already begun making efforts to schedule for the 2016/2017 school year to assure availability. Plans for a training video to be used statewide are currently in progress. The training video is expected to be completed in early 2016, and will offer assistance to other jurisdictions who wish to implement a similar program within their court.
The Cobb County Sheriff’s Office purchased an armored rescue vehicle with seized funds. This vehicle is used to remove victims from active crime scenes and reduces the threat to the deputies involved in the rescue. This vehicle is made available to all surrounding agencies inside of Cobb County and surrounding counties.
Due to substantial increase in the number of deaths of young people in Cobb County attributed to heroin, the Sheriff’s Office initiated a task force by increasing number of agents we have devoted to MCS. This task force has been successful not only in investigating heroin related crimes, but most importantly has made arrests of persons suspected of supplying the drug to those who died. Many of the deceased were between the age of 18 and 23 years of age.
This year the Sheriff’s Office successfully implemented a new records management system. Combined with improved work process, the new system allows for better tracking and retrieval of information needed by the sheriff's office and courts.
Through training and with the purchase of new equipment the Sheriff’s Office has enhanced our computer and communications forensics capabilities. In addition, we offer these resources to other Cobb County agencies. The advantage of its in-house forensics resources allowed for criminal cases to be handled quicker and with greater efficiency which reduces the overall cost of criminal prosecutions.
As the first law enforcement agency in Cobb to issue body cameras in 2011, the Sheriff’s Office has continued to increase their use. In 2015 the office successfully equipped all its uniformed deputies with this technology.
The Sheriff’s Office has increased the number of taser devices assigned to deputies, which provided an additional resource for when responding with violent offenders.
During this past year the Sheriff’s Office has made numerous improvements around the county's court complex. Many of the improvements are not readily visible to the public but are an important component of providing a safe court complex for our jurors, judges and those with court business.
Our Sheriff's Office Reserve Unit, comprised of volunteer sheriff's deputies provided more than 2,000 hours of service across the community. Additionally, our civilian VIP volunteers gave another 4,000 hours of administrative and operational support.
The Solicitor General of Cobb County launched a separate Victim Services website linked to the main site. The web site contains portals to numerous local, state, federal, and other agencies that provide resources and/or information to the community at large.
The Solicitor’s Office also formed a Behavioral Health Court to address the needs of defendants with mental health issues. The bid was awarded and will start with our first defendants in January 2016.
Cobb County has three volunteer programs that are essential to the juvenile court process. These three programs are CASA, Diversion and Judicial Citizen Panel Review. CASA volunteers are court appointed special advocates that speak for children who have been abused or neglected. In 2015, the CASA program consisted of 49 volunteers. CASA volunteers worked 4,800 hours and drove approximately 15,000 miles.
CASA volunteers advocated for 226 children. Diversion volunteers determine the consequences for first time offenders of minor offenses. In 2015, the Diversion Program consisted of 48 volunteers. The Diversion volunteers reviewed a total of 71 cases this year. Judicial Citizen Panel Review volunteers make recommendations to the court in regards to children that are in foster care. In 2015, the panel program consisted of 69 volunteers who review cases once a month. The program reviewed an average of 25 cases per month, involving approximately 50 children. All three programs use residents from the community as volunteers, which results in a tremendous cost savings to the taxpayers.
In September 2015 the Juvenile Court also began a new program entitled, Brief Strategic Family Therapy. BSFT is a short-term, problem-oriented intervention designed to improve a youth’s behavior problems by improving family interactions. Therapists seek to change maladaptive family interaction patterns by coaching family interactions as they occur in session to create the opportunity for new, more functional interactions to emerge.
In July 2015, Probate Court’s only court reporter retired from Cobb County. Instead of hiring a new full-time court reporter, Probate Court used the available funds to purchase and implement a digital recording system for Probate Court hearings. This system has increased continuity of operations by allowing the office to maintain control of all recordings. This system also facilitates direct access to court records.
Additionally, Probate Court was able to leverage the aforementioned salary to restructure office personnel. This included upgrading two existing positions into supervisor positions, changing a Judicial Admin Tech II position to a Judicial Admin Tech III and creating a new full-time clerk position in the License Division. This restructuring enabled Probate Court to optimize their resources, achieve more desirable internal structure and deliver an improved level of service.
In January, 2015, Probate Court replaced its outdated, cumbersome weapons carry license application case management system with Contexte; the case management system utilized by the Estates Division of Probate Court and many other Courts in Cobb County.
Throughout 2015, Probate Court has continued to make forms, applications and records available online as a convenience for customers.
This year has been a very productive year for the Superior Court Clerk’s Office. In an effort to serve the residents of Cobb County more efficiently, we have made several upgrades and improvements. First, we have purchased a new High Density Storage Unit capable of holding up to six years of files. Previously, our file room could store only three years with the remaining files being stored in an offsite storage facility costing $7,000 each year. We have managed to close almost all of our offsite storage units savings thousands of dollars in storage fees as well as man-hours searching for and collecting files. Second, we are in the testing phase of our Real Estate division's new Land Records System, which should be online by January 2016. Lastly, we are currently installing the use of debit and credit card payments for the first time ever with expected completion by January of 2016.