Officials work on reducing jail population before holiday rush
By Jack Stephens
Published in News on December 23, 2005 1:49 PM
Some Wayne County Jail inmates might be going home early for Christmas. That's the goal of the District Attorney's Office and the jail staff.
The 200-bed jail had 203 inmates, including 21 women, on Tuesday.
District Attorney Branny Vickory and Sheriff's Capt. James Tadlock, the jail administrator, say the idea is not new, because their staffs scan the jail list every day, looking for those who could be released on bond or for time served after entering guilty pleas.
Vickory said jailed inmates are brought to court every day and advised of their situation. If they face minor offenses, the prosecutor said, some could be released for time served and others could be sentenced to state prison.
Vickory said Assistant District Attorney Bob Hulbert scours the jail list to find those who would plead guilty and be released for time served or have their cases resolved in other ways so that there would be room for anyone arrested over the weekend.
"We're trying to get it down to manageable numbers so we can take in more people over Christmas," Vickory said.
Among those who might be released early are those charged with shoplifting, misdemeanor larceny, public intoxication and minor felonies.
Prosecutors say some inmates might not have been able to post bond and may have spent more time in jail awaiting trial than the maximum time for which they could have been sentenced.
Overcrowding has been a problem at the 11-year-old jail, despite the efforts of officials from many county departments. For a few years the jail could accommodate federal prisoners for a fee paid to the county. But it has averaged more than 200 inmates for more than a year.
Tadlock said his top assistants -- Lts. Betty Scott and Debbie Taylor, Sgt. Cindy McCullen and Officer Gloria Thornton -- check the inmate list daily for those who might be released quickly.
"We've all worked hard to get the population down," Tadlock said.
But Tadlock cautioned that a large number of those in the jail are awaiting trial on serious felony offenses. He said those who are convicted are shipped to one of seven state prisons, depending on their sex, age and offense.
The pre-Christmas release is called the "jail push," Vickory said, because there is no court scheduled for this week. A judge has been available each day to conduct first appearances for those recently arrested or to accept guilty pleas.
However, a few cases were calendared this week in District Court -- by mistake, Vickory said. Most were continued to next year.
What is happening now, Vickory said, "is really the same thing we do all year long in regular court every day. Now we're only doing jail cases."
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