Hundreds of suspected thieves and drug users could be back on the street if Cleveland Sheriff Gerald McFaul follows through with his threat to cut costs by releasing low-level offenders from jail to save money, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer. McFaul, who must pare $4 million from his $81 million budget, said he may be forced to stop sending nonviolent criminals to jails in neighboring cities and counties.
McFaul wants to cut spending by no longer paying those jails to house county prisoners. That would mean releasing some low-level offenders. An analysis by The Plain Dealer found that the least-dangerous criminals appear to be drug abusers and thieves. Judge Timothy McGinty has long wanted to streamline criminal cases to speed up the county’s justice system. McGinty said that could be done by quickly assigning attorneys to low-level drug abusers so they could be diverted into treatment programs. “If they had counsel early, we could eliminate 10 percent of the jail population,” McGinty said. He also has long argued that inmates could be quickly dealt with by getting treatment for the ones who are mentally disabled or mentally ill. The Plain Dealer analyzed the sheriff’s roster of 1,809 inmates in custody last Tuesday. Inmates charged with drug-abuse crimes accounted for 171 of the county’s inmates last week, joined by 111 accused of the more serious drug trafficking. Some 173 were in custody for theft-related offenses. The majority of the inmates are awaiting trial for violent crimes, violating parole or probation, or failing to appear in court.