Saturday, February 17, 2007

Dallas Overcrowding Snapshot: Jail a waste of money for many low-level offenders

The state has ordered Dallas to either staff up its jail or reduce the inmate population by 1,000. According to the Dallas news article mentioned in the previous post, Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle thinks that "the release of hundreds of low-level felons might cause Dallas' high crime rate to climb as the city's petty criminals have more time on the streets to commit their offenses." Reported the News:
"A relatively small number of offenders have a disproportionate impact on the crime rate," Chief Kunkle said. "If those guys aren't dealt with in a way that keeps them in jail as much as possible, then that's going to drive crime up."
So who are the folks Kunkle is worried about releasing? Here's an example of the worst of the worst critics could point to of the 700 released so far:
Many of those who received plea deals to thin out the jail population have lengthy criminal records for nonviolent offenses. For example, George Skotnicki took a plea deal Thursday for stealing an extension cord Feb. 9. The 54-year-old homeless man was twice convicted of theft in 2002 and also has two previous convictions for delivery of a controlled substance.
Mr. Skotnicki sounds really dangerous, doesn't he? A terrible threat to us all. A 54 year old homeless guy who stole an extension cord.

You tell me: Do you think the public would be safer spending $40-$50 per day on Mr. Skotnicki for the next 30 days in jail (more if he has significant healthcare costs), or would Dallas be better off if somebody spent $1,200-$1,500 over the next 30 days to find a place for him to live,
help him access community-based medical or mental health treatment, and get him a job?

Think about it: For Skotnicki, a homeless petty thief, it'd be nearly as cheap to pay his rent, utility bills and tuition to a local community college as to incarcerate him! It'd cost taxpayers about the same, and then he wouldn't need to steal an extension cord.

If the goal is to maximize public safety, we're spending our money on the wrong things.


Anonymous said...

does anybody know where george is. he is an old friend would like to help.

Anonymous said...

I know who he is also. How do you know him?

Anonymous said...

I met George 6 months ago. He's not homeless anymore.