Tucson Can Now Incarcerate People in Santa Cruz County Jail and Is Going to Save Money Doing It

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COURTESY OF PIMA COUNTY
  • Courtesy of Pima County

People sentenced to jail for more than 10 days by the Tucson City Court now face serving their time in Nogales, as a tactic by the City of Tucson to reduce jail costs.

Last night, the City Council unanimously approved a one-year agreement between the city and Santa Cruz County that says Tucson will get to pay a flat rate of $65 per inmate, instead of the $279 booking fee and $85 per additional day Pima County charges. According to Deputy City Manager Martha Durkin, since 2007 the booking costs and other fees have greatly increased. Back then, Pima billed the city $166.28 for the first day, and $57.46 for each other day. 

The cost of jailing people this year was $6.9 million.

Tucson City Court Administrator Christopher Hale called the deal a win-win, because the city will save money, and Santa Cruz County will get much-needed revenue to cover debt. Hale said without the agreement, the Tucson City Court projected costs increasing by an extra $300,000 in fiscal year 2016. 

With this deal, inmates already in custody will be bused to Santa Cruz County at no extra cost to the city, and people sentenced while out of custody have to drive themselves. 

Hale suggested during the council's study session to issue vouchers for a door-to-door shuttle service that would cost about $22 with a $2 saving for a round trip. Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild wanted to keep the process as is, which means out of custody individuals have to self-report.

City Councilwoman Regina Romero asked the city to ensure people who are working in Tucson, and are on work release while in jail, to be kept here in town. It wouldn't be ideal to have a person drive from Santa Cruz County to Tucson, and vice versa, every work day to try to maintain employment. 

"That is going to be costing a lot of money, because you don't want people losing their jobs," she told the council. "There is a nationwide effort to reform sentencing laws and reform the incarceration system that we have in this country. It costs a lot of money, I don't think people understand the amount of money that is spent on incarcerating people. I know this court and the mayor and council have a track record...many years already trying to change the system and trying to incarcerate less people not only because it saves us money, but also because it actually keeps people working."

Other options Hale suggested the council to reduce jail costs is to expand home detention sentences for violations other than DUIs, such as shoplifting and other misdemeanors; better fund and grow alternative to jail programs; and host more "warrant clinics" for defendants to reach plea deals and avoid going to jail.

The agreement with Santa Cruz County begins Jan. 1, 2016.

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