Bail Woes

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Overcrowding at the Leon County Jail continues to be a problem. There were 1,196 inmates in the jail Monday morning, way over the capacity of about 900.

The Leon County Sheriff's Office estimates between 10 and 15 percent of those inmates are there for one reason, they don't have the money to post bond and can't get out. It's at the expense of taxpayers; each inmate in the jail costs the county $55 a day.

Sheriff Larry Campbell said, "Just putting them in jail to sit and rot is not any help to anybody, and just a cost to the taxpayers."

Public Defender Nancy Daniels says this has been an ongoing problem and adds the courts need to be turning to pre-trial release programs, like GPS, more often.

Daniels said, "People just accused of a crime who haven't been to court to determine their guilt or innocence, if these people were out of jail awaiting their trial in the community, we wouldn't have such a terrible overcrowding problem."

Pointing to a list of 183 inmates booked into the jail on $5,000 or less bond, she said, "Here's a guy on trespassing. He's been in jail for 50 days on a $500 bond."

At $55 a day, that inmate is costing the county about $2,750, as of Monday.

Assistant State Attorney Robin Lotane says there could be more to that case and others like it.

She said, "It's a catch 22 situation. You let them out on their own recognizance, they don't show up for court, the judge issues a warrant, they get rearrested with no bond and they're there until the case is disposed of. Like I said, it's a catch 22."

Sheriff Campbell says he's encouraging deputies to issue notices to appear rather than hauling people to jail, when appropriate. Tallahassee police say they're doing the same.

Leon County commissioners have also been working to address the overcrowding issue. In the last year, the county has put aside more money to expand electronic monitoring programs and it's also about to renovate the jail annex, which will add another 150 beds.