Thumbs up; thumbs down, Oct. 3

Published 8:11 am Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Thumbs Up

Rocket docket program

Boyle County is beginning to implement a “rocket docket” program, which speeds up the court process and resolves cases more quickly. According to Boyle County Attorney Lynne Dean, the program, which is funded in part by a $15,000 grant from the attorney general’s office, will help reduce the number of people being held in the Boyle County Detention Center.

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As communities across the U.S. have discovered over and over, having more people in jail does not equate to having a safer community or less crime. Efforts to jail more people or jail people for longer have never been successful in achieving the desired results.

This new program appears to fit nicely with intelligent efforts that are already underway to jail fewer people in Boyle County, like the Shepherd’s House intensive outpatient program that’s not only currently keeping 30-40 people out of jail on any given day, but helping those people build relationships and structures that will help them stay out of jail in the future.

Officials have known for a long time there will be no silver bullet to solve the jail’s overcrowding problem — which has turned into a major taxpayer cost problem. Instead, it will take a lot of incremental changes accumulating and building off of each other. We won’t ever just wake up one day and have a population-controlled jail that’s helping people more than just holding them in cells. But we can slowly morph what we have into that ideal over time.

We think the rocket docket program is another good tool to add to the belt.

Thumbs Down

Paying to get out of jail

Another tool for improving the jail situation that seems to be missing from Boyle County’s belt is giving defendants the ability to get out of jail without needing to have thousands of dollars on-hand.

Many people wind up in our jail directly or indirectly because of drug problems. Many of those same drug users are not wealthy — they’re living paycheck to paycheck at best, and not knowing where their next meal may come from or where they’ll live tomorrow at worst.

We reported this weekend on a report from the Administrative Office of the Courts showing Boyle County has the lowest rate of offering non-financial bonds to defendants in the state. Boyle also has the highest rate in Kentucky of requiring financial bonds to get out of jail. Mercer County, which shares district and circuit courts with Boyle, has the second-lowest rate of non-financial bonds and second-highest of financial bonds.

In Boyle County, about one in 18 people charged with a crime can get out of jail without paying money. In Mercer County, it’s about one in 13. The state average is a little better than one in three. In Casey County, it’s better than one in two.

There can be logical reasons to require someone to pay before they can leave jail. But the disparity between Boyle and Mercer counties and the rest of the state is too great to be ignored. If other counties can offer non-financial bonds to their defendants half the time, or even a third of the time, and continue to function OK, then so can we.

If we can implement changes to our bond procedures and give more defendants non-financial options for bonding out, that would be one more step in the right direction toward solving the jail problem.