Thursday, July 12, 2012

Chicago Criminal Lawyer Comments on the Costs, to the Taxpayer, of Justice

Mr. Government: “ I used to take into account when making  a recommended sentence the length of time they would be in jail, but I no longer consider that my problem.”

Me:  “We just can’t afford it.”

Mr. Government: “You mean you can’t afford it as a defense attorney?”

Me: “ No. We can’t afford to house non-violent offenders as taxpayers.”

Mr. Government: “That’s not my job.  I leave that to the Sheriff.”

Just the other day I had a conversation like that, again, for like the billionth time with a prosecutor.  My client wasn’t even facing jail, but it’s time we all address the cost of incarceration since we are all paying for it.

From the Chicago Tribune:

Cook County Jail inmates stuck behind bars because they can't come up with small amounts of money to go free while awaiting trial for non-violent offenses will automatically go before judges to possibly get their bail reduced under a plan announced by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle today.
          Inmates always have been able to request that judges reconsider their bond amounts.  

            But a panel convened by Preckwinkle to study bond court in Cook County recommended the step become    
            standard in cases where defendants remain in jail despite needing $10,000 or less to walk out.
Preckwinkle said she does not know how much it will cost to make the changes, or where the cash-strapped county will get the money. But she said enacting the reforms is a matter of fairness.
"I can't tell you (the cost), but I think the long-term goal is to reduce the jail population without endangering the citizenry or the defendants," Preckwinkle said.
         It costs about $143 per day to keep an inmate at Cook County Jail, Preckwinkle said.

$143 per day is an awful lot of money.  I’ve had clients spend over 60 days in jail before their families hired me and I was able to get the bond reduced while they await trial.  Anyone else think almost $10,000 (assuming the inmate never got ill while in custody, because then the price would be higher) is too much for an accused awaiting trial on a non-violent offense?  Then there’s the issue of the accused pleading guilty, just to get out of jail, even if they believe they aren’t guilty.  Where’s the fairness in that?

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