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Problems of Jail Overcrowding

October 07, 1988

This letter is written in response to "There's a Better Answer Than Building More Jails" by Karl Fleming (Opinion, July 3) which has only recently come to our attention. Fleming pointed out the problems of jail overcrowding and the enormous expenditure required for housing inmates. He warns, ". . . the cost is about to bury us."

Under the subtitle "What Can Be Done?" Fleming proposes the following solutions: speed up the court system; broaden the work-release program; let more people out without bail; expand diversion programs; demand restitution, and restore chain gangs. Since all of Fleming's proposals--with exception of chain gangs--are in place in Los Angeles County, certainly they would be expanded if it was as easy as he suggests.

I am the assistant director of the Los Angeles County Superior Court Pretrial Services Division and I am responsible for both the own recognizance and bail deviation programs. I am unaware of any contact with this office made by Fleming. Of course I take exception to his comments and wonder how he determined that the O.R. program is ". . . so hopelessly bogged down as to be virtually useless. . . ."

With few exceptions, the O.R. program provides applications for arrestees at the time of arraignment in all municipal court districts in Los Angeles County. During the calendar year 1987, 33,500 O.R. applications were processed, defendants were free on O.R. for 464,000 days and a cost avoidance of $14 million was affected.

In addition, a bail deviation program has been offered since 1984 which provides an individual (at time of arrest) the opportunity to request a bail reduction. Applications are processed within three hours, and the program operates 365 days a year. During the calendar year 1987, we processed over 22,000 bail deviation requests. Our projections indicate even better figures for this year.

TERRY CLARK

Los Angeles Superior Court

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