Despite a dramatic decrease in serious crime over the past decade, New York City is paying more money to house inmates, reports the New York Daily News. Taxpayers are paying an estimated $50 million a year as the court system handles criminal cases at a snail’s pace, says the city’s Independent Budget Office. “You would think the court system would be going faster,” said Independent Budget Office spokesman Doug Turetsky.
Inmates who have been convicted and sentenced were held in city jails an average of 48 days in September 2004 before being transferred to state prisons. That was more than double the average stay of 15 days in 1994. The numbers aren’t any better for inmates being held between their arrests and sentencing. Suspects were jailed an average of nearly eight months in 2004 – a 10-year high. In 1994, the average stay was 5-1/2 months. Some convicted inmates skillfully work the system by requesting repeated court delays to put off being sent upstate, said city Correction Department Commissioner Martin Horn. Also, prosecutors have adopted stricter plea bargain guidelines, which have resulted in stingier deals that often take more time to hash out. More than 80 percent of the felony cases in the city are disposed of through plea agreements. The less-forgiving deals have led a greater number of defendants to gamble on trials.