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More than three years after the program’s elimination, rocket docket is being relaunched this week in Hardin County after a new commonwealth’s attorney officially takes office.
Shane Young will be sworn in today as the Ninth Circuit commonwealth’s attorney.
In an effort to increase efficiency in the local justice system, the new prosecutor said he intends to advance cases more quickly through circuit court as well as reinstitute rocket docket.
Started by previous Commonwealth’s Attorney Chris Shaw, rocket docket expedites cases, allowing defendants to enter early guilty pleas and bypass court hearings and grand jury review.
The program was eliminated in 2009 after county funding was cut in half. Full funding then was about $100,000 a year.
Young said his office unofficially re-launched the program Friday when First Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Chris McCreery was scheduled to meet six defendants.
Right now, Young’s office is operating the program without funding, he said, but the new prosecutor and Judge-Executive Harry Berry have discussed the possibility of securing county money to support rocket docket.
“We’re going to go ahead and get it started and just roll with it,” Young said.
“I hope to get it funded,” he said later, “but if it doesn’t, I’m going to do it anyway.”
Rocket docket could quicken either an inmate’s release from jail into a treatment program or transition from the county’s cost to the state’s, Young said.
Both scenarios ultimately ease the county’s financial burden, he said.
Berry said effort to reduce an inmate’s time at the local detention center is beneficial to the county.
“If we need to help with financing, we’re interested in helping,” Berry said.
When county government halved funding to rocket docket in 2009, he said officials did not have a “comfortable feeling” about the program’s financial impact.
“It’s difficult to put dollar to dollar on what is saved,” said Berry, who compared it to placing a finger in a bucket of water. “Intuitively, we know getting people through the system faster is beneficial to us.”
According to Berry, the plan is to provide money to cover rocket docket in the next county budget. However, he said he is not opposed to releasing some money to the program before the end of the current budget.
“We fully understand you can’t start something for free,” he said.
Sarah Bennett can be reached at (270) 505-1750 or email@example.com.