In a special meeting held last week, county
commissioners voted to consider alternatives for offenders convicted of
non-violent crimes in lieu of serving sentences in the regional jail.
“Prisoners cost the county money that we no longer
have in our budget,” said one commissioner, “We are forced to decide the
best way to spend what little money we have. Our budget is already
showing red and we are facing layoffs of county personnel, this may be a
way to keep some funds in the county instead of sending money, better
used here, off to the Regional Jail Authority.”
One of the alternatives to be discussed is being
called the “get out of jail free” option. If someone was convicted of a
non-violent crime, the magistrates would calculate the cost of the jail
time and relate that amount to the commission.
The commissioners would then decide whether to
offer the offender a choice of paying a fine of a portion of the
projected jail bill with the time sentenced then becoming probation.
The commissioners said that if probationers commit
another crime during their probation period, they would then serve the
original sentence concurrent with their new sentence. Probationers will
also be required to provide a minimum of 80 community service hours
working to improve county secondary roads or parks. They would also have
to attend, and pay for counseling in relation to their crime to help
them stay out of trouble in the future.
“This seems to be a way of cutting down the huge
jail bill we owe every month while also putting offenders to work on
useful projects around the county,” said a spokesman for the commission,
“We are looking into the legalities of the issue and asking the people
of the county if we have their support on this. We know it might not be
the perfect solution, but we simply cannot keep going into debt to house
prisoners while laying off county workers and not being able to fund
county parks and other worthwhile projects.”
Since the cost of housing a prisoner is almost $50
a day, it definitely seems a good idea to find an alternative, cost
effective, method of rehabilitating offenders while improving conditions
in the county. If this method of sentencing is approved by the State
Supreme Court it is sure to be adopted by every county in the state.
agrees that this proposal could save the county thousands of dollars