First things first: Nobody who's arresting people for overdue library books gets to complain about jail overcrowding. Period. That part cracked me up. Tallying up the costs of using police and the jail that way, in short order it'd be cheaper to replace the books!
The number of people coming into the jail every day essentially hasn’t changed, [Chief Deputy Derek] Meador said. What does seem to be different now, he and Sheriff David Duke said, is that in many cases, people are coming in and staying for longer periods.
People arrested for offenses such as unreturned library materials tend to post bond quickly and then leave.
“The persons who don’t fit in that group are staying longer,” Meador said. Some might take 10-12 days to gather the funds necessary to post bond when it might have taken a day or two before. In some other cases, people come in on felony charges and can’t make bond.
During the meeting, Duke gave the example of someone in jail on a drug-related charge — possession of certain chemicals with intent to manufacture a controlled substance — with bond set at $20,000.
A year ago, “They got out the next day,” he said. “Nowadays, they’re staying.”
What's more, if there are large numbers of misdemeanants waiting 10-12 days to post bond, that's the fault of local judges for setting bails too high for petty offenses and not giving enough personal bonds where the offender is not a significant flight risk. At some point in a declining economy, elected officials must use some common sense and prioritize scarce resources based on public safety.
Regrettably, no mention was made of new tools given to law enforcement by the Legislature in 2007 to reduce jail overcrowding: Officers may now issue citations instead of making arrests, at their discretion, for a number of common, low-level nonviolent misdemeanors, though only a few agencies have used the new authority.
In the current budget environment, it wouldn't surprise me if that changed in the near term, as tight county budgets dominated by jail spending begin to trump the habitual "soft on crime" carping because it's too expensive to incarcerate every petty misdemeanant, and of course, recalcitrant local readers. At a minimum, it'd be nice to see local media making such options part of the conversation about jail overcrowding.