In an op-ed for the LA Times, R Street Institute’s Arthur Rizer and Shoshana Weissmann make the case for work release programs as a stopgap measure on the path to “sweeping jail reform” nationwide.
“Pretrial work release programs would allow defendants in jail, deemed eligible for bail yet unable to afford it, to return to their jobs or go to a new job while awaiting their trial,” Rizer and Weissman write. “Similar in function to standard work release programs for those convicted, pretrial programs generally order defendants, after completing their day’s work, to return to jail at night where they are supervised by correctional staff.” These programs would allow defendants to keep their jobs, while working toward making bail, at which point they could have full pre-trial release.
“All such programs would be good for counties’ budgets,” according to Rizer and Weissman. “In many states, taxpayers aren’t responsible for housing or supervising a defendant while they work. In some cases, a portion of the individual’s earnings goes toward the cost of housing the individual in the facility at night.” And when defendants make enough money to secure their release, counties save even more money, reduce their jail populations, and “can focus their resources on holding those who pose the greatest risk to society.”
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