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Court system burdening local jails as well as tax payers

Posted on March 16, 2010 3:00 AM EST

The overcrowding at the Miami-Dade County jails is causing docketing backlogs and hefty tax burdens on the citizens of the county. Extended stays by certain inmates are causing the overcrowding. Ultimately, the current situation is costing taxpayers in excess of $20 million dollars a year. According to a report generated by the jail, five inmates have been housed in the local jail in excess of twelve years. The report also set out that more than 1,200 hundred inmates have remained in the Dade County jail for more than a year. Typically, the local jail holds defendants awaiting trial or sentencing hearings, state prisoner who are returning to court for post-conviction relief and individuals being held for extradition to other jurisdictions. While the judges, prosecutors and the entire court system is overburdened, the situation works to the benefit of Miami criminal lawyers.

Crowded courthouses and court dockets burden the state criminal justice system on the whole, but as criminal lawyers, we are seeking the best outcome for our clients. If the system is failing to provide the justice it was created to provide, that is a problem for the citizens, the politicians and the government. While the current situation is displeasing as a fellow citizen, the situation provides some relief to individuals charged with crimes. An overcrowded system benefits clients in different ways. The Florida Legislature created sentencing guidelines which takes into account the severity of the primary offense and an individual's prior criminal history. The overcrowded dockets cause prosecutors and judges to offer below guideline plea offers to defendants who would be facing state prison time in other jurisdictions in an effort to alleviate the pressure on the system.

Another example of how the system benefits Miami-Dade defendants can be seen with narcotics cases. Cocaine trafficking, marijuana trafficking, oxycodone trafficking and ecstasy trafficking cases all carry mandatory prison sentences depending the illegal substance and the amount of the substance involved. Very often, at the slightest hint of an issue in the case, state prosecutors will offer waivers of the prison sentences in an effort to reduce their caseload. First time offenders generally are better prospects for having sentences waived. Some lawyers use delay tactics in order to provide the best defense for their clients. While some attorneys oppose this strategy, clients with difficult cases certainly approve of this method. The longer a case stays open, there is a better chance that witnesses disappear or their memory fades. Employing this strategy can result in prison plea offers being reduced to probation offers or cases being dropped in their entirety.

While an overcrowded system benefits a defendant, the tax payer is footing the bill. In 2009, it cost the local jail $134.27 per day to house one inmate. If you multiply that number times the number of inmates awaiting the disposition of their case for over a year, the bill amounts to approximately $60.5 million a year. In addition, Jackson Memorial Hospital laid out $74 million to treat the inmate's medical needs. The longer an inmate stays in jail, the more yearly tests that are required to be performed on those individuals from annual physicals, mammograms, pap smears and prostate exams. As a tax payer and defense lawyer, the choice that benefit our clients the most is an over taxed system. As such, we hope things remain as they are for the benefit of the people charged with criminal offenses.

Jail Break, Poder360.com, March 16, 2010.
Categories: In General