Jefferson County has applied for federal stimulus money to expand an inmate pretrial release program, frustrating some bail bondsmen who see their livelihood threatened.
The proposed pilot program will increase the number of inmates who can get out of jail without putting up cash, while placing more responsibility on the county to not only monitor them, but make sure they show up for court.
A judge will determine what type of bond — cash, surety, property, personal recognizance — to grant an inmate after hearing recommendations from bond commissioners, who interview inmates about their jobs, family, and mental and physical health.
County justice planners say releasing inmates considered low flight and public-safety risks would save taxpayers money, and may also keep dangerous but wealthier inmates in jail or saddled with more supervision — something beyond what a bail bondsman does.
"The intention is that no one will get out of jail without seeing a judge," said Tom Giacinti, the county's director of justice services. "Bail bondsmen served a noble purpose for a long time, but public safety is really our main concern now, and the decision to release someone should rest with the court."
Jail costs about $100 a day, while pretrial supervision is roughly $1 per day, Giacinti said. Additionally, 40 percent of the 1,300 people in the county jail are pretrial inmates. Projections indicate the policy could free up as many as 300 beds, some of which could be used by federal prisoners attending court dates in the area. Last year, the county raked in $3.7 million from the federal government for temporarily housing those prisoners.
But Colorado bondsman Steve Mares said the county's program would end up costing taxpayers more money in tracking down defendants who don't show up for court. Unlike the county, bondsmen send out bounty hunters at their own expense.