Charlotte, NC - On any given night, Mecklenburg County's Jail Central has about 2,000 inmates. Some are coming, some are going, but most will eventually stand before a judge to answer for alleged actions.
To reduce jail crowding and seek efficiencies in moving cases through the courts, Mecklenburg County commissioned a review of inmates in jail awaiting trial. That review is now complete and available to the public online at
http://countybudget.charmeck.org by clicking on "Pretrial Jail Study: Full Report" under the "April 12th" heading.
The Criminal Justice Department at UNC-Charlotte conducted the study. Of the average 2,000 inmates at Jail Central, about half are considered "pre-trial" - that is, they haven't bonded out and are in jail awaiting trial. The study focused on examining these pre-trial inmates and options for moving them through the system more quickly and more efficiently.
The study found that the time taken to resolve cases in Mecklenburg County is notably below the standards set by the American Bar Association and the N.C. Supreme Court. Many factors for this are cited in the study: a lack of court staff, a large number of continuances, scheduling cases around officer court dates, a lack of priority given to defendants who remain in custody, and others. Recommendations for improvement include a closer look at the use of continuances, improved scheduling to increase flexibility, increased use of citations and addressing staffing issues.
The study also analyzes the pre-trail release program. This program allows eligible defendants charged with certain non-violent crimes to be released without posting bond. Factors deciding eligibility include community stability, family ties, prior criminal history, etc. Pre-trial services got high marks in the study for processing cases efficiently. It finds the most likely way to increase the number defendants released under pre-trail services would be in the area of drug related offenses.
The Sheriff's Office, which runs the jail, is now exploring the implementation of some of the recommendations in the study. The Sheriff plans to bring together key players such as the trial court administrator, district attorney's office and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department to consider the study's findings.