Over a three-year stretch the number of inmates increased more than 21%.
"Many people are in jail because they are too poor to post bail. If you have a first-class pretrial program, a county is often in a better position because they can carefully analyze the individual, can figure out better what needs to be done." -- Donald Murray, senior legislative director, National Association of Counties
According to John Dyess, chief administrative officer for the Harris County Sheriff's Office, the county spends some $200 million a year for detention, money that could be spent in more productive ways.
"This really wasn't built for this. I don't know if we can build our way out of where we are today." - John Dyess
The Justice Policy Institute estimates that almost two-thirds of the nation's jail population are awaiting trial. And why are they waiting behind bars? Because almost four out of every five inmates made less than $2,000 a month prior to being arrested.
Between 1986 and 2005, the number of arrests for violent crimes increased 25% but the number of arrests for possession of illegal drugs increased 150%.
The numbers are appalling. The wholesale eviseration of the Eigth Amendement's prohibition against unreasonable bail is unconscionable. The only purpose of bail is to insure the accused's appearance in court. It is not meant to be a tool of punishment. We often forget that these men and women held in jail awaiting trial haven't been convicted of anything. They are innocent unless the state proves them guilty beyond all reasonable doubt.