Saturday, February 17, 2007

Warrant Roundup wasn't cleared with overcrowded jails

A statewide plan for police to roundup drivers with outstanding warrants for traffic offenses apparently wasn't cleared with local jail administrators and could create a short-term, statewide jail overcrowding crisis early next month.

In Dallas, where the county has been ordered to reduce inmate populations by 1,000 in a very short time, they called off the plan after county officials found out at the last minute and begged the city not to participate. Reported the Dallas News ("Dallas County frees 700, will boost staff," Feb. 16):

A major wrinkle to the county's plan to reduce the jail population nearly emerged Friday, when county officials learned of the city of Dallas' planned involvement in a statewide, weeklong roundup of people with Class C misdemeanor warrants – the very low-level offenders the county has been trying to move out of the jail.

After some urgent phone calls placed late Friday, the city decided not to participate. Class C misdemeanors include traffic-related offenses such as speeding, low-level assaults and other minor crimes.

Dallas City Marshal Joe Polino said during a news conference Friday that the city had 400,000 outstanding Class C warrants with a value of $118 million.

Mr. Price said such a roundup – something he learned about only late Friday – would have been counterproductive to efforts to ease the jail crisis.

I wonder if the other police departments participating in the Great Warrant Roundup have told their local, overcrowded jails they're going to be hauling in dozens of low-level traffic violators? Bet not, if they didn't in Dallas.

Police do these warrant roundups because they're lucrative - traffic violators are a big source of income, and as fines have grown steeper over the years, a significant percentage of drivers don't or can't pay. So when police play bill collector, the jails inevitably become temporary debtors prisons. That's just the way it is.

The problem comes when the jails are full of people you've actually charged with crimes. Can we afford to incarcerate everybody both who break the law and also those who cannot afford a $1,000 surcharge for a drivers license? Many counties will find out the week of March 3.

6 comments:

paladin said...

Since the Dallas Marshalls are so excited to do a 'warrant roundup', why don't they try and round up the felons with active warrants? Leave the class c guys till later. Just a thought for 'crime' efficiency...

JSN said...

Most of the traffic holds are for failure to pay. And the idea is to use the jail as a collection agency. Which works in many cases because the offenders pay what they owe and are released by the jail. If the jail is crowded the jail administrator may have the right to refuse to accept low level infractions.

It often is difficult to get the police to look for persons with an active warrant. Many are picked up on traffic stops when the officer does a record check. Cleared warrants may still listed as active in the computer record. I have no idea how frequently that happens but when it does it causes major problems for the person held.

Anonymous said...

Damn right-- I got caught up in one of these "warrant roundups" this past summer, when I got pulled over on a minor traffic stop. Apparently an old ticket that I had paid over 3 years ago resurfaced as a warrant with a Failure to Appear warrant attached. Naturally, I got hauled off to jail for 3 days and was oh-so-graciously granted "Time Served". That was the end of it, until I appeared last week on the new tickets, and guess what? The warrant popped up again, despite the original violation listing as "Time Served". Yet I still had to post bond. Had I not had a lawyer, I could have been jailed yet again. I still could-- for these most recent things that I just took care of, just in time for the moneymaking Warrant Roundup!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous...

I agree with Paladin... Since they want to do a round so badly why dont they go after the felons with active warrants!!?? Having a felon out and about on the streets is actually worse then a person who didn't signal and couldn't come up on enough money to pay $1,000 surcharge!! It's just a thought is all...

Anonymous said...

I do not believe it if fair. there are some people who just cant afford to pay tickets. im sure there are even points where cops have gotten a ticket or two that they didn't have the money to pay. whether it be because you son had a doctors bill or your rent just hit. there is no reason to pick on the people who just cant afford it. vs getting the people who really messed up.

friend of misery. said...

WTFWTFWTF. i just got a letter for a warrant for my arrest for something I thought i took care of 2 years ago but "apparently" they did not get the insurance card i mailed in 2 YEARS ago and now without any other notification in 2 years, I get a warrant from some random city i once passed by 2 YEARS ago. i mean what the heck? if i would of received any other kind of notification prior to this i would have indeed taking care of it. but now i am being charged $400? and have a warrant? great, this will make paying rent so easy...