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March 22, 2006

The financial underbelly of local sentencing

We all know money makes the world go round, and this fascinating piece from a local Ohio paper highlights that this applies to the sentencing world.  The article, headlined "Inmate tug of war: Local vs. federal," explains how a local county make money for giving local jail space to federal immigration prisoners, which in turn has prompted country commissioners to encourage local judges to look for alternatives to jail time for local offenders:

In 2005, [federal immigration] ICE prisoners brought the county an estimated $809,823, Gibson said. Each ICE prisoner brings in $55 a day.  [County Commissioner Dave] Sauber and fellow Commissioner Ben Nutter see the local vs. ICE prisoner population as a balancing act with financial implications.  "It is a delicate balance," Nutter said.  "We look at things from a financial perspective where the judges are charged at looking at it from a safety/enforcement angle.  We are trying to balance both of those."

Nutter and Sauber said they cannot tell judges how many people they can place into the jail. "We would like to see (the jail house) all ICE prisoners because we are receiving payment for that," Sauber said.  "We cannot tell or even ask the judges not to sentence.  What we can do is try to build the expansion to keep within the guidelines of state." Sauber said the judges have shown an effort in relieving some of the population issues by working with the jail administrator and other county officials.

Tiffin Municipal Judge Mark Repp has been the recipient of county criticism on several occasions due to the increasing local prisoner populations. "The sheriff and commissioners are only looking at it from their personal end," Repp said. "My obligation is to follow the law and to look out for the interest of the community as a whole.  Sometimes that means that justice is going to cost some money."

Repp, and other local judges, use several options to decrease the number of inmates imprisoned. Such options have included: house arrest, work crews, good time - when time sentences are decreased for work days completed - and electronic monitoring.  Most recently, Seneca County Deputy Dave Magers suggested a community-release program in which prisoners could work on community projects in lieu of time served under a person who is not a deputy, such as someone from the Seneca County Maintenance Department....

Depending on the crime, Repp said he sentences multiple offenses with driving suspensions and many first-time offenders with no jail time.  He said he also uses house arrest and electronic monitoring as well as the work release program.  "I try to grant that liberally," Repp said about work-release.

March 22, 2006 at 10:08 AM | Permalink

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Comments

I'm more and more interested in this topic. Maybe 8,000 county jail beds in Texas out of 80,000 total are rented for that purpose.

We had a situation in Texas where a county was housing lots of federal immigration detainees and when Hurricane Rita hit a slight delay in processing prisoners to the state caused the jail to fill up, so they had to stop making low level arrests altogether, see:

http://gritsforbreakfast.blogspot.com/2005/09/rent-bed-policy-not-rita-responsible.html

I'd suggested it might be a good opportunity for some empirical academic research in this and two other TX counties to see if fewer arrests actually caused reported crime to rise during the period the jails were full, see:

http://gritsforbreakfast.blogspot.com/2005/12/research-needed-to-tell-if-fewer.html

I'd still love to see somebody bite on that. Hope all's well,

Posted by: Scott | Mar 28, 2006 5:46:30 PM

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