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.
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