Prisoners as a Commodity

This is the state of our justice system (boldface mine):

HERKIMER, N.Y. — Herkimer County’s new sheriff hit the ground running. In addition to becoming the county’s top cop, Sheriff Scott Scherer must oversee the completion of the new jail-which is about 60% complete- and, figure out how to deal with the effects of bail reform. The new laws, which took effect Jan.1, are gutting jail populations statewide. If Herkimer County officials knew, in the earliest planning stages of the new jail, what they know now, they’d have done things differently.

“In retrospect, absolutely. I don’t think we would have built. I think we would have refurbished what we have currently and saved the taxpayers a whole lot of money,” says County Administrator Jim Wallace.

Wallace and the new sheriff say that the fact that they’ll be able to bring back inmates the county used to board out, will save the county money.

“Normally, Herkimer County boards out 20-30 inmates a day and now for the first time in maybe 25 years, by Friday, we’ll have every inmate back in our jail, which is good, because we won’t be paying the boarding out fees and our transport costs will go down,” says Sheriff Scherer.

As for filling the new jail, there are options. But they’re options nearly every other county in the state will likely pursue.

We can look to federal, but believe me, everybody else is gonna be looking to federal prisoners, too,” says Sheriff Scherer. “Federally, everybody’s gonna be fighting for that same inmate and it’s probably gonna drive the price down.”

“Gonna drive the price down.” D.C. sometimes doesn’t get policy right, but getting rid off cash bail (a judge determines if the accused can be set free) is one of the better things the city has done. People–and their freedom–aren’t commodities.

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