The Norman Transcript

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December 18, 2012

Cleveland County programs save space, dollars

NORMAN — Cleveland County Undersheriff Rhett Burnett reported there were 382 prisoners in the F. DeWayne Beggs Detention Center as of Monday morning. Of those, 93 — 24 percent — are Department of Corrections inmates with 76 of those having completed the judgment and sentencing which means they are ready to be transported to DOC facilities.

“We’re waiting until DOC has room to take them,” Burnett said.

Oklahoma Court Services Director Julia Curry and her staff are doing what they can to alleviate jail crowding. Curry reported to the Board of County Commissioners Monday morning that the pre-trial sentencing program saved the county more than $715,000 between July and November.

The pre-trial and low bond programs work with people who commit non-violent crimes with low bonds but who cannot afford to bond out, even at those low amounts.

“We don’t want people in jail simply because they can’t make a $1,000 or a $5,000 bond,” Curry said.

The pre-trial program requires participants to come before Judge Judge Lori Walkley every Thursday.

“The clients themselves are ordered to pay for the program,” Curry said. “The county pays for it and the alleged offender pays it back.”

Participants pay a $10 a day fee. When they are out of jail, they can work and earn money to deal with the legal expenses. In addition, there is some help available if the participant is unemployed and needs to find work. Some participants are also referred to drug and alcohol treatment.

Someone who can’t pay may be ordered to perform community service.

“If someone’s doing 20 hours of work for free, it will motivate them to go out and find a job,” Curry said. “We found that we were housing people in jail because they couldn’t make these small bonds.”

Participants are monitored. The cost of the program is much less than the $45 a day or more it costs to house someone at the jail, Curry said.

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