In Broward County, a recent announcement of the closure of a 544-bed jail tower is raising concerns over how the county intends to handle inmates. According to a recent article in the South Florida Sun-Sentinal, Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti is closing the wing in response to budget cuts. However, pursuant to a 1976 lawsuit and subsequent court order, federal authorities closely monitor the Broward County jails to ensure they do not exceed their designated capacity. As such, Broward courts and jails will be forced to evaluate their procedures and find ways to manage inmates safely and efficiently with less jail space.
In fact, Broward County already possesses the means to do just that. The Broward Pretrial Services Agency is one of the largest programs in the state and falls under the jurisdiction of Sheriff Lamberti. This program advises county courts on pretrial release decisions, supervises released defendants, and informs defendants of their court dates. While Sheriff Lamberti commented in the article that he’d like to incarcerate everyone charged with a crime, such an approach is not practical, economical, or legal. Instead, Broward can and should take advantage of the supervisory services provided by its pretrial program. As Broward County Judge John “Jay” Hurley noted in the Sun-Sentinal article, a significant number of those in jail are homeless, minor drug offenders, and minor thieves – defendants eligible for bail but unable to afford it. Instead of housing these types of defendants in jail at the staggering cost of $114/day, Broward County could and should place them into the supervisory services of its pretrial program. Taking such action would allow Sheriff Lamberti to ensure the safety of his community while keeping the jail populations at a constitutional number.
To read the Sun-Sentinal article in its entirety, follow this link: