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Must-read: Thousands of Pinellas jail inmates released without a judge ever setting bail

in The Bay and the 'Burg by

Now, don’t you all go get in a panic, but…

Since November, more than 3,000 people have been released from custody this way in Pinellas County. Their charges ranged from minor misdemeanors to felonies like grand theft, battery and heroin possession.

The Pinellas Sheriff’s Office saved at least $126 per person, the cost to house an inmate for a day — a total that jail officials think could come close to $1 million by year’s end — and had one fewer occupied bunk in the jail.

Pinellas is the only county in Tampa Bay to make such extensive use of administrative release-on-recognizance orders.

The trend represents a shift from years past, when even minor offenders may have spent at least a night in jail as they awaited a first appearance before a judge. Accused felons stood nary a chance at such breaks.

But because the Pinellas County Jail remains overcrowded after budget cuts forced it to close wings, the number of administrative RORs has climbed as jail officials try to strike a balance between keeping the worst offenders behind bars and saving money and space by releasing some of those charged with lesser crimes.

Between January and May 31, 2,237 people left the jail without having ever stepped foot inside a cell. Of those, 463 were charged with felonies. Over the same period in 2009, the total was 777, including all charges.

Continue reading here.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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