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Diverting and Reclassifying Misdemeanors Can Save Money and Inform Decisions About New Jails. . Spokane, Washington Rotary 21 April 28, 2011 Robert C. Boruchowitz, Professor from Practice Director, Defender Initiative.
Spokane, Washington Rotary 21
April 28, 2011
Robert C. Boruchowitz, Professor from Practice
Director, Defender Initiative
Removing cases from the criminal court system either by diversion or treating them as non-criminal violations can save hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Jail cost per day is $125 or $45,625 per year for one person.
125 misdemeanor defendants in jail --$5.7 million per year.
Public order—criminal trespass, nuisance alcohol, urinating in public, prostitution, coupled with TrafficTotal: 22% of pre-trial misdemeanor detainees
trial for a crime against person. Seven percent were awaiting trial on a property charge; 3% for a narcotics offense; 48 percent for drunk driving; and 6% for a public order offense. The remaining 9 percent were in jail for a traffic offense.
[25 % for property, drugs, public order, or traffic.]
The United States is the world’s leading jailer, incarcerating some 2.3 million people at an annual price tag of $70 billion. Roughly 500,000 inmates — almost 25 percent of those behind bars — have been put away for drug offenses. A significant number are hit with lengthy and costly mandatory minimum sentences. Thousands of offenders out on parole are reincarcerated for technical offenses, such as failing a drug test, that could more effectively — and more inexpensively — be addressed in a non-prison environment.
An NAACP report released last week is the most recent to argue convincingly that public safety can be preserved and tax dollars saved with smarter policies. The group favors, among other things, the elimination of mandatory minimums for drug crimes; diversion programs rather than incarceration for some addicts; making parole more available for those who complete educational or rehabilitation programs; and using scientific screening methods to determine good candidates for parole to better ensure that those released will be able to successfully reintegrate into society.
But the levels of incarceration are financially unsustainable and in many instances counterproductive. While money should not drive policy in this area, the country would be foolish to forgo opportunities for sensible reforms that also ease the pressure on public coffers.
We now have decades of proof that treating marijuana use as a crime is a failed strategy. It continues to damage the credibility of our public health officials and compromise our public safety. At a fundamental level, it has eroded our respect for the law and what it means to be charged with a criminal offense: 40 percent of Americans have tried marijuana at some point in their lives. It cannot be that 40 percent of Americans truly are criminals.
Washington state should lead on marijuana legalizationSeattle City Attorney Pete Holmes argues that its time to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana. Outright prohibition isn't working. February 16, 2011
Defenders, prosecutors, judges, and county officials were able to establish a diversion and re-licensing program for suspended driver’s license cases by building a coalition of political and judicial leaders that began with an alliance between the defenders and the prosecutors.
An evaluation of the first year of the program found that it returned $2 for every dollar spent, cut the jail population, and helped people get their licenses back.