The Intake Unit's role is to collect, verify, and report to the judicial officer, prior to the pretrial release hearing, background information pertaining to individuals charged with felony and misdemeanor offenses. The Intake Unit operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1101 Jefferson Street and in the offender intake area of the Fulton County Jail.
Defendant Interview Process
The first stage to the interview process is the screening of defendants booked into the jail. Intake Unit staff screen all defendants in custody in order to identify those eligible by law for release. Screening takes place at the earliest possible time after the defendant is booked into the jail. Defendants booked on misdemeanor and felony charges and eligible to receive a bond are interviewed.
The Defendant Bond Assessment Process
A Bond Assessment is submitted on each eligible felony and misdemeanor defendant with 24 hours of the defendantís entry into the Fulton County jail. The Bond Assessment is most utilized at the initial First Appearance Hearing, considered the first stage of the criminal justice process. The Bond Assessment provides the judge setting bond and defendant release conditions with an assessment of any potential risks for flight or misconduct posed by the defendant.
On January 1, 2011, the Superior Court and State Court Pretrial Services programs merged. As a result, staff began preparing Bond Assessment reports for both the Superior Court and State Court First Appearance Hearings. The total number of Bond Assessments reports (misdemeanor and felony) in 2011 increased by 68% compared to the total number of Bond Assessments prepared in 2010. In 2011, staff prepared 22,496 Bond Assessments. A Bond Assessment is also submitted for non-interviewed defendants in order to provide a criminal history summary to the Court for bond setting purposes.
The Intake Unit staff completes a comprehensive criminal history on all eligible defendants arrested on misdemeanor and felony charges. A record check is completed using the Georgia Crime Information Center database (GCIC), Fulton County Sherriff's Department Mainframe, Banner, Justice Data Link (JDL), State Probation and Parole, Department of Corrections, and as well as Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Gwinnett, and Henry County criminal databases. A criminal history is provided at the First Appearance Hearings, All Purpose Hearings, and other Superior Court hearings when requested.
In 2011, the Intake Unit completed more than 22,000 GCIC criminal investigation reports.
Much of the information used to assess risk of pretrial misconduct and to contact released defendants relies upon the accuracy of the information provided by the defendant. If the information provided by the defendant during the interview is inaccurate, the risk assessment may be invalid and it may be difficult to locate the defendant if released. The Intake Unit staff attempts to verify as much information as possible prior to the initial appearance. Verification consists of confirming the information by contacting collateral references, and when discrepancies arise, re-interviewing defendants. The Intake Unit attempts to contact family members, friends, employers, probation officers, drug counselors, and other community contacts.
Pretrial Services is responsible for completing Public Defender Indigence Applications for all felony defendants booked into the Fulton County Jail. Each defendant is interviewed and assessed to determine if they meet the financial eligibility criteria established by the Public Defenderís office.
In 2011, the Intake Unit completed 12,303 applications for Public Defender representation.
Increasingly, more and more defendants booked into the Fulton County jail suffer from mental illness. The Intake Unit is responsible for screening all newly arrested felony defendants to identify mentally impaired offenders who may be eligible to be diverted from the traditional criminal justice process and into the Mental Health Court. Each defendant is asked a series of questions relevant to their mental health status. Defendants that met the established criteria are referred to the Mental Health Court staff for further evaluation and placement.
In 2011, the Intake Unit referred 1,308 defendants to the Mental Health Court, a significant increase from the previous year.
To expedite involvement in drug treatment and to capitalize on motivation for behavior change associated with the arrest, Pretrial Services screens all felony defendants to determine if the defendant meets the criteria for a Drug Court referral.
In 2011, 791 defendants met the initial screening criteria and were referred to Drug Court for further evaluation. This represented a 29% decrease in referrals compared to the previous year.