Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Burnet jail blames overcrowding on Class C arrests

More and more Texas law enforcement agencies are embracing the tactic of reducing their number of arrests for petty offenses in order to stave off costly jail overcrowding. KXAN-TV out of Austin reports that:
Due to overcrowding and lack of manpower, Friday, the Burnet County Sheriff relayed the message that the Burnet County will no longer be accepting most class C misdemeanor suspects. Wednesday, Jail Captain Kathy Sievers said two county justices of the peace disagreed with the plan. Seivers said the county will accept them, but if their stay is longer than two days, the inmates will be transported to the Zavala County Jail in Crystal City. The facility is handling Burnet County's overflow.

Tuesday, 29 Burnet County inmates were in Crystal City. It costs Burnet County $45 a day per inmate to house their inmates in the South Texas jail. The cost does not include the gas and time it takes to make the 400 mile trip. All 98 beds at the Burnet County jail are full.
Class C misdemeanors are the most petty class of nonviolent offenses for which the sole punishment is a fine, not jail time, so it makes sense not to take most of these folks to jail in the first place.

Until recently, I was under the impression that Class Cs made up a small percentage of arrests, but a report this summer (pdf, p. 5) found that in Austin, 22% of all arrests by APD were for Class C misdemeanors, so roughly one in five people entering the Travis County jail are there for offenses that carry no jail time. If the same is true in Burnet County, the Sheriff's new policy may well save the county quite a bit of money with little risk to public safety.

4 comments:

Seperate the Wheat From the Chaff said...

I agree that most Class C misdemeanors do not need to be arrested with the exception of Public Intoxication. Honestly, sometimes disruptive citizens need a safe place to sleep it off. When I was a deputy sheriff I knew that if someone was dangerously drunk, and that no one would except them, we would take them to jail where we could keep an eye on them to ensure they lived through the night. Although there was a hefty fine for making us babysitters lol....

Also citizens that do not pay their citations or don't show up for court need to be arrested.

Everyone else can pretty well go after a few hours or a citation.

Miguel Larsen said...

Scott,

I really have enjoyed visiting your site and reading the various posts. Excellent job.

Today's overcrowding situation in Texas county jails is reminiscent of the days of the early 1990's when TDCJ was overcrowded causing a backlog of blue warrants in county jails.

The first thing we did was eliminate the booking of class c violators with the exception of public intoxication. And certain A and B misdemeanors were released by misdemeanor field citations. Remember, this was the early 90's, before it was cool to do it today. Why these concepts are not embraced today is confusing.

It's easy to learn from the past so as to be able handle the the future.

Miguel Larsen
Chief Deputy Retired 2008

alins said...

The problem is the bond amounts are set way too high.

People who have not been to trial yet are still presumed innocent. They should only be in jail for two reasons:
1. Danger to community
2. Likely to skip bond

The state law of Texas says that a high bond shall not be used as a punishment and that the purpose of bond is to assure that the accused will actually show up for court.

People who actually live and work in the county where they are accused of a crime are not likely going to just take off and run unless they are accused of a high level crime with a possible prison sentence.

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