It shouldn't have to be spelled out that releasing low-level offenders and the elderly is the humane, moral thing to do during the current crisis. But it's also the case that the county should continue doing so in the wake of the pandemic, and not just on moral grounds. The long-term ramification of a criminal justice system less oriented toward punishment has positive economic ramifications for local government and its finances.
During conversations about a new jail facility in 2019, Cuyahoga County Councilman Dale Miller proposed a jail capacity of 1,550 inmates, estimating that the county could save more than $800 million in construction and operating costs as compared to a consultant’s model, which called for a capacity of 2,150 inmates.
“We can and should set a jail population target that is considerably lower than even the most aggressive scenario” Miller wrote in a criminally under-reported letter to his colleagues. He suggested that the target could be reached by eliminating cash bail, diverting mentally ill and addicted people to treatment facilities, establishing central booking, processing cases quicker through the courts, and releasing low-level offenders earlier in the court process.
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