Guest Speaker: Commonwealth Attorney Marsha Garst

Commonwealth Attorney Marsha Garst again returned to the Valley Justice Coalition on October 17th.

We asked her to prepare a response to the following question:

If your office were mandated to do whatever necessary to reduce the number of local and state-held inmates from this area by 25% by the end of 2017, what would be the five changes your office could make, in cooperation with the courts, that you believe would reduce incarcerations and result in the least risk to public safety?

She impressed us all with a lengthy list of viable solutions, as follows:

  1. Create a detox facility with a mental health wing. Perhaps additionally offering inpatient treatment followed by intensive outpatient support services for those with charges related to substance abuse.
  2. Increase the outpatient mental health services offered by the Community Services Board, ideally including transitional housing.
  3. Grow the day reporting center at Gemeinschaft Home. Marsha has seen some recent success stories and defended the cost of day reporting, saying that it’s still cheaper than locking people up. Additionally, she would like to see an expansion of pretrial services and GPS tracking and the ability to offer work release to inmates.
  4. Specialty Courts: Drug Court, DUI Court, Mental Health Court, Veteran’s Court. While there is currently neither funding nor support from the Virginia legislature, Marsha told us there might be creative strategies to arrange a specialized docket without action by the legislature.
  5. Grow the Immediate Sanctions Program.
  6. Preventative Programs: Expansion of Peacemakers, Restorative Justice and Re-Entry programs.

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