Pinellas County, Florida just released a Criminal Justice System Study on an interesting question, why has its prison population soared even as its crime rate and its population has fallen. Because the Pinellas County Jail is overcrowded it faces significant risks and challenges as does your favorite Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney when he makes his way into the cold, gray prison you support with your tax dollars.
In fact according to the report overcrowding poses “the most significant challenge to the successful operation of the Pinellas County jail. An overcrowded facility fundamentally undermines the ability of staff to insure the safety and security of inmates, staff, and the public. Overcrowding presents the single greatest jail liability risk to a county, raising the specter of law suits, consent decrees, and court oversight of county jail operations. In the past three decades overcrowding is the most common reason why jurisdictions throughout the United States have been sued over the conditions of their jail facilities.”
The report also notes that “over the last six years the per capita arrest rates in Pinellas County have fallen below state averages. Yet the jail incarceration rate is above average. This may in part be explained by a circuit court felony case filing rate that is far above average, increased felony case disposition times, and a jail that increasingly consists of pretrial felons.” See, serious crime rates down.
Yet the report notes that not all crime has fallen, much to the joy and happiness of at least one Criminal Defense Lawyer in Clearwater. Even though all crime has fallen, some arrests are up, see the crime viewer map. For example, arrests for drug crimes, crimes against property and assaults.
The report notes that violent crimes in Pinellas County from 1990 to 2006, “overall, as a category, crime reports for these offenses have declined 24% since 1990. Specifically, crime reports have declined by 41% for robbery, 22% for aggravated assault, and 17% for murder. Forcible sex offenses, however, have increased 28% in the last 17 years….property crime reports have also shown a significant decline between 1990 and 2006, 31%. Crime reports for burglary have declined 45%, for larceny have declined 36%, and for vehicle theft have declined 32%. Here is a map showing crime rates in Pinellas, Florida.
Many of these crimes other than sex offenses are highly subjective as to how they can be charged, how many counts to charge and even if they should be charged as felonies or misdemeanors. In many places in Florida good officers might not even make an arrest for a minor incident making wise choices which benefit all of us.
Should someone smoking a joint or someone who breaks a window or someone who threatens another at a bar really be arrested and spend time in jail for these crimes? Pinellas officers should use discretion to determine whether to make an arrest.
It’s interesting that the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department is under fire for inappropriately investigating drug cases. The answer seems to be that Pinellas Deputies and Officers under pressure from supervisors to make more arrests even as crime is falling.
Everyone is an Outlaw in Pinellas even Japan’s outlaw hero from a far away era.
|Ishikawa Goemon played by kabuki
actor Arashi Hinasuke II
(painting by Toyokuni III,1863)