Fort Lauderdale Defense Watch: Broward Jail Numbers Soar
Broward jail facilities are brimming, and as our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers understand, it may have a lot to with increases in arrests for everything from prostitution to robberies.
What’s not entirely certain is whether that increase in Broward arrests is due to more crimes actually being committed or in more aggressive police tactics.
It’s probably a combination of both. On one hand, you’ve got a tanking economy, and this inevitably leads to more property crimes. You also in a recession are going to have greater rates of depression, which inevitably leads to more drug use and the multitude of crimes that accompany it.
But on the flip side, you’ve got high-cost police agencies that are constantly under scrutiny by local governments looking for ways to trim. If the department can justify their current annual budget by touting the number of arrests made (without regard for the strength of those case or subsequent convictions) they figure the better their chances of at least maintaining the status quo.
Then you factor in that jail stays are becoming longer, and there just might not be room at the Inn. An experienced defense attorney can often use jail crowding to your advantage in a number of ways. Getting reasonable bond, pre-trial release, and sentencing options my all be influenced by the number of jail beds available.
The trouble for the county is that it literally can not afford to go over capacity, which currently stands at 5,200. Overcrowding in Broward has been a problem for many years. A lawsuit filed by an inmate back in the late 1970s resulted in a federal crack down. Part of that was a federal consent decree – still in place today – that charges the county fines of $1,000 for every day that the jail is over its maximum capacity. It’s so strict that federal monitors check in weekly with the jail.
A county judge told the Sun-Sentinel that those federal monitors come to his courtroom at least once every single year and inquire as to why this inmate or that inmate wasn’t given bond.
And yet, jail stays are up an average of four days. The average cost to house an inmate stands at roughly $120, and they each stay for about 32 days. Compare that to last year, when 28 days was the average.
The jail’s current population this year is around 4,500. Last year, it was about 115 less, on average. In fact, it’s about 7 percent higher than where jail officials like to keep it, which is at 85 percent.
So what does this mean for you if you’ve been arrested in Fort Lauderdale?
First, it means that public defenders are going to be overworked and underpaid. If there’s any possibility of pooling resources and money to hire a private attorney, it’s going to be a worthwhile investment in your future.
Secondly, the attention the issue has garnered from first-appearance Judge John Hurley, who said he and his staff would work to lower jail population rates by reducing sentences for minor offenders or allowing them to leave with credit for time served.
This is certainly encouraging news, but there’s always sort of an ebb and flow to issues like this. Once it fades from the headlines, no doubt the numbers will inch up again.
That’s why you need an attorney committed to fighting to have your bond, charges and sentences reduced.
If you are facing criminal charges in Broward or Palm Beach counties, contact the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert, a Partnership of Former Prosecutors, for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call 1.888.5.DEFEND.
Broward jail population on rise, By Brittany Wallman, Sun Sentinel