Counties Experiment With Jail-Crowding Reduction Strategies


With nearly 750,000 inmates in county jails as of mid-2005, counties have come up with a variety of strategies to address the overcrowding, ranging from diversion to inter-governmental cooperation to administrative streamlining, reports County News of the National Association of Counties. Orange County, Fl. has a “meaningful first appearance” program, including a permanent judge to conduct twice-daily first appearance hearings; expanding criteria for non-monetary pretrial releases, and expediting pretrial detention matters like arraignments and violation of probation hearings. A working courtroom was constructed in the adult booking facility, as were offices for the judge, prosecutor, public defender, and court clerk.

Several counties have substituted labor for jail time, resulting in more open beds and savings to taxpayers. The Oneida County, N.Y. Offender Work Program swaps jail time for community service for eligible offenders. While working under direct job-site supervision, offenders perform tasks for municipalities and nonprofit agencies within the county. The tasks can range from painting, general maintenance, landscaping, masonry, or other labor-intensive work. Benton County, Ar. Judge Gary Black is developing a worker pilot program that aims to allow nonviolent offenders to work specifically for the county instead of serving time. Cook County, Il. has expedited the bail bonds process, thus relieving jail overcrowding, through the Cash Bail by Credit Card program. A detainee, friend, or family member can pay bail bonds via major credit cards. Before it passed the 100-day mark, the program had collected more than $1 million. After 100 days, the program had processed 553 credit card transactions and collected an average of $10,275 a day.


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