CRIME PREVENTION; Digging for Savings

The Florida Times Union, April 2, 2008 | Go to article overview

CRIME PREVENTION; Digging for Savings


AJacksonville Journey subcommittee has highlighted important issues that deserve further study.

The Administration of Justice Subcommittee identified possible ways to save money to fund officers on the street and fund programs that can prevent crimes.

For instance, overcrowded jails lead to high costs. That money could be used more effectively elsewhere. The cause of the overcrowding is in some dispute.

State Attorney Harry Shorstein took issue with some of the committee's findings that caseloads in the court system are too high. For instance, the Duval district has lower caseloads than some other Florida urban districts, Shorstein said.

Nevertheless, the committee found a high disparity of caseloads among the eight Circuit Court divisions.

"The disparity among the non-repeat offender division caseloads leads us to believe that the exceedingly high caseloads may be avoidable," the committee reported. Such high caseloads are "unmanageable to properly administer justice."

Too many cases strain judges and prosecutors and produce a large number of prisoners in pretrial detention.

"An overcrowded jail results in the expenditure of a significant amount of taxpayer dollars," the committee said. More pay for corrections officers, more costs of medicine and food and other services all add up to several million dollars a year.

In addition, people charged with felonies may have their cases linger. Here is what they found with murder suspects in jail as of Jan. 24:

- Five in jail for over 1,000 days.

- Six in jail between 800 and 1,000 days.

- 25 in jail between 500 and 799 days.

- And 22 in jail between 365 and 499 days.

Also, the committee noted a large percentage of those with felonies were sent to county jail rather than state prisons, shifting costs from the state to the city. The committee also noted a "significantly smaller percentage" of sentences for probation and community control as compared to other large Florida counties.

Chief Judge Donald Moran said that there are no easy solutions. His district has been praised for its success in reducing caseloads in civil court, mainly by sharing cases among the judges.

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