Small Town News


County taking part in pilot program to allow instant bail for some arrests

The Ohio County Times-News of Hartford, Kentucky

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Ohio County has looked at its juvenile and inmate incarceration budgets as areas to save money.

At its last meeting on Nov. 15, the Ohio County Fiscal Court voted to take part in a state pilot program approved by the Kentucky Supreme Court.

It allows for some nonviolent offenders to post bail without going to jail.

Ohio County was among nine counties — Bell, Boone, Boyd, Butler, Campbell, Ed-mondson, Kenton and Pike, the others — chosen by the high court.

Jailer Gerry "Rip" Wright said he doesn't know why Ohio County was selected but he welcomed the opportunity to save money and free up precious jail space for more deserving criminals. The Ohio County Detention Center, a life-safety jail, has 52 beds but averages 60 inmates per day.

"I was really shocked when they asked me because the state is so big," Wright said. "I said I would honored to try the pilot program."

The year-long program will begin Jan. 1 and, if successful, will be expanded statewide in 2011.

Justice Will T. Scott estimated a savings of $150 million a year by allowing people to post bonds immediately on more than 700 possible misdemeanor charges and 24 first-time felony offenses.

Among the charges are marijuana possession, prostitution, minor traffic offenses, shoplifting and minor hunting offenses.

Wright said the bonds will be set by the state and something like public intoxication would run $30.

"If they bond out right then, we don't have to feed them, we don't have to book them in, and it saves me manpower," Wright said. 'Tve had people come in on a $10 shoplifting offense and stay the whole weekend."

Along with the state pilot program, the county has agreed to enter a three-year contract with an Owesnboro facility that will house juvenile offenders for less than the current rate being paid to the Warren County Juvenile Detention Center.

County Attorney Greg Hill recommended St. Joseph Peace Mission for Children, which houses juveniles for $46.10 per day. The county pays Warren County $94 per day and that doesn't cover medical needs.

"We're required by law to pay for the incarceration of juveniles...," Hill said. "About 40 to 50 percent who have been sent to Warren County can be placed in an alternate facility."

According to County Treasurer Anne Melton, the county budgets $7,500 per year for juvenile housing out of the Local Government Economic Aid fund. Last year, the county spent $2,297.

"I've seen as much as $5,000 in a year," Melton said. "It just varies year to year."

Copyright 2009 The Ohio County Times-News, Hartford, Kentucky. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: November 26, 2009

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