County jail looks into pretrial release program for offenders

Posted at 7:47 PM, May 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-03 20:48:00-04

MURFREESBORO, Tenn (WTVF) — Reducing jail and prison populations has been a push across the state and nation.

Rutherford County commissioners are studying ways to allow first-time, low-level crime offenders to skip bail if they qualify. This is typically your misdemeanors like public intoxication, petty theft.

The offenders will still have to show up to court to determine if their innocent or guilty.

“We’ve learned and the last 20 years that keeping people incarcerated is not helping and all it does it cost our citizen the cost of building bigger jails,” said County Judge Lisa Eischeid.

Eischeid has been on the bench for 2 years and in that time, she was handed this mission.

“We got people being incarcerated and held that are not found guilty yet just because they can't afford to get out,” said Eischeid.

First time offenders awaiting court on some non-violent offense charges could be eligible for pre-trial release. The county is looking to hire three counselors who would question the inmates on things like their past, income and criminal history.

The inmates will undergo a background check and drug test. Those answers and results will be handed to the judicial commissioners and they determine who should be released.

Those charged with serious felonies and crimes against victims will not qualify, but not everyone is board with the program.

“This is a temporary fix and that's the biggest problem,” said Paul Roscoe Williams.

Bail Agents Williams says not only does the idea take money out of their pockets, but now the cost of one of these offenders skipping court will no longer fall on bondsmen.

“You're expecting taxpayers to pay for people to go jail not the person being arrested,” Williams said.

Williams says all this will do is flood the jails even more with failure to appear cases. Judge Eischeid says this proposal is not to hurt the bonds companies but to help the first offender.

The cost to house an inmate for 24 hours in Rutherford County is nearly $60 dollars.

The County commissioners will vote on the issue in two weeks.