Of course they are....
LOVELAND, Colo. – Budget cuts and the cost of maintaining an overcrowded jail forcedAlderden to begin releasing inmates accused of lesser crimes without bond. Other police agencies across the country are following suit — to the chagrin of bail bondsmen who say their livelihood is threatened.
Officials in this northern Colorado county insist they're reaping savings by placing released inmates into less-costly supervision programs that can include screening for domestic violence and mental health problems. Supporters of such pretrial programs, which are being tried from to Spokane, Wash., argue that the usual practice of requiring bond for release doesn't prevent crime.
"It simply separates those who have money from those who don't," said, executive director of the Washington-based nonprofit Pretrial Justice Institute.
Over the years, some 300 U.S. jurisdictions have implemented pretrial programs, Murray said. While no data suggests the numbers are growing because of the bad economy, Murray said the recession could force corrections officials to rethink their jail policies.
"They're looking at their (jail) population and realizing that many of the people they're paying to house are there because they can't pay their bonds," Murray said.
In Fulton County, Ga., officials decided in April to put more people under supervision instead of jailing them.Fulton County has had a for more than a decade but is expanding it to include people with prior offenses or those who may be homeless.
"We, like every jurisdiction in the country, are operating under financial stresses that require us to be innovative," said county spokesman Don Plummer, who said Fulton expects to save $5.5 million a year by expanding its program.
Florida's St. Lucie County adopted its program in 2007. Nonviolent offenders who can't afford bail "take up bed space for violent people who need to be in there," said Mark Godwin, the county's criminal justice coordinator.
Washington's Spokane County also is creating a pretrial services program because of, said Spokane City Attorney Howard Delaney.
In rural Larimer County, population 287,500, declining sales tax revenues cut the sheriff's share of county collections from $9.26 million in 2008 to $6.64 million this year, said Bob Keister, county budget director. Alderden cut 12 positions, including seven jail deputies, to stay within his budget of just under $41 million. He also adopted a 460-person limit at the jail, where the population routinely surpassed 500.
Alderden released 47 inmates in January and 16 more in February before their sentences were completed to meet the new cap. That decision, and ramped up pretrial services, has helped put the jail population in the low 400s, said Gary Darling, Larimer County's criminal justice planning manager.
Darling said it costs $1.93 per day to keep someone under pretrial supervision, versus $104 a day to jail them. He estimates the county can save more than $4 million a year under the new system.