Saturday, December 29, 2012

Pre-trial detention examined

The high cost of detaining people in jails, estimated at $9 billion annually, has more of the nation’s 3,000 counties setting aside the political aspects of incarceration and considering pre-trial release programs, said Chris Rodgers, president of the National Association of Counties.

“The counties don’t see red or blue on this — they see green,” Rodgers told journalists at a national symposium on pre-trial detention issues held in May in New Orleans, reported the Pantagraph.

In Illinois, McLean County’s pre-trial release program is one factor contributing to a steady decrease in jail numbers. Like most of the country, McLean County has benefited from a drop in its crime rate in recent years, meaning fewer people being jailed.

The number of jail bookings has declined since 2009 when 8,355 people were processed, compared to 7,174 so far this year. The daily cost of keeping a person in the county jail is $50, said Emery.

State’s Attorney Jason Chambers compared jail and prison population to a glass of water: “If they are full and we pour more water in, then some of the water is going to come out. We need to make sure that we have the right water in the glass.”

A recent check of the jail’s population showed 59 inmates serving sentences and 168 others held in pre-trial detention. That puts McLean County slightly above the 61 percent pre-trial detention rate for about 750,000 people held in U.S. jails.

Although the number of people under some form of correctional supervision, including jails, prisons, probation and parole, dropped in 2011, the U.S. still leads the world with a supervision rate of one in 34 people. That mass incarceration rate starts in county courthouses where decisions are made on charges and the terms of bail bond.

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