Monday, July 13, 2009

Interesting Article in Forbes About the Jail Crisis and How to Solve It

This interesting article on posted last week is worth a read. The article starts with discussion of the Harris County Jail in Houston, Texas, one of the largest jails in the United States. Last year, the Harris County Jail held an average of 10,000 inmates per day. Even more shocking, according to the article, is the Los Angeles County Jail which has the largest daily jail population of 19,836 in 2008. The budget costs of this type of incarceration is staggering:
Houston is far from alone. Amid budget crises, falling tax revenue and national unemployment approaching 10%, jails--usually city- or county-run holding facilities for those serving short sentences or awaiting trial--saw their populations grow nearly twice as fast as state and federal prison populations during the first half of the decade, according to a 2008 report by the Justice Policy Institute. The report says that local governments spent $97 billion on criminal justice in 2004, up 347% since 1982, while detention expenses climbed 519% to $19 billion.

The article goes on to discuss some alternatives being suggested as a means to lower pretrial costs and to lower the jail population. The National Association of Counties, for example, is calling on communities to invest more into pretrial services so that people charged with non-violent offenses who don't need to be confined can be quickly vetted for community programs and the mentally ill can get services.

No comments: