Sunday, August 21, 2016

How much could local taxpayers save by eliminating arrests for petty misdemeanors?

In Kentucky, legislators are facing a revanchist push by Democrats to overturn 2011 legislation passed by that Republican-controlled body to reduce incarceration levels in local jails. What interested Grits most, though was the remarkable effect their 2011 legislation had on local jail incarceration levels. According to a Louisville TV report:
Jail administrators in Kentucky had urged passage of the 2011 law to cut down on overcrowding, and other advocates said it's a waste of tax dollars to put misdemeanor offenders in jail.

"If they pass this, it's going to reload up the jail with 'minor offense' people who could be out working," said Louisville attorney Paul Gold, adding that it could again lead to people being jailed for small amounts of marijuana. "I don’t see the necessity of this legislation."

Metro Corrections Director Mark Bolton said in an email that the proposed change has the "potential to result in more jail bookings and increase in the average daily population of the jail."

The number of jail bookings in 2010 was 45,161 and the average daily population of the jail was 1,930 inmates, 137 over capacity, Bolton said.

"By contrast, we began to see a steady reduction over the next four years, and by 2014, there were 36,740 bookings with an average daily population of 1,851 (only 58 over capacity)," Bolton wrote.
Thinking through this anecdote for a moment from Texas' vantage point: In 2007, then-Corrections Committee Chairman and prominent DFW-area Republican Jerry Madden passed legislation which similarly made arrests optional for low-level pot possession and a handful of other Class B misdemeanors. In Texas, police can also arrest people for Class C misdemeanors, even though the maximum penalty involves no incarceration but only a fine.

The 2011 bill in Kentucky apparently took a statute similar to Madden's and changed the "may" to a "shall," with the result that local jail bookings in Louisville declined by 18.6 percent. A half-decade later, law enforcement interests have come back to persuade the Kentucky legislature to reverse course. From the same source:
The law currently says police "shall" issue a citation instead of making an arrest for dozens of misdemeanors, as long as officers believe the suspect is not a danger to himself or others and will appear in court to answer the charge. House Bill 250 would change the language to "may" issue a citation.
Certainly Grits hopes this revanchist push by Kentucky Democrats will fail. But seeing this report that Kentucky's Republican-controlled legislature reduced jail populations so significantly with this move makes me think the Texas Lege could likewise reduce local taxpayers' burden from jail costs with a similar change here.


Linda Curtis said...

Thank you for all you do. I am as much concerned about the "criminal justice machine" as I am the central Texas "growth machine" that I've been fighting for years on water grabs.

Anyway, any chance you will be looking at the Hays County jail bond package or any others round the state?

Linda Curtis, Independent Texans

Anonymous said...

For most misdemeanors the Singapore approach is the best-----a fine.

For slow learners that pride themselves on being repeat offenders the fines should slide upwards.

Property seizures should be used whenever circumstances warrant---jail should always be the last resort as many would rather sit and watch TV in the pokey rather than face the daunting prospect of working and paying taxes.

Everybody crows about their rights but far too few like to discuss their responsibilities.

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