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by Peter Moskos

August 24, 2009

Time Served

Perhaps nothing speaks better to our broken justice system than the fact that people--guilty and innocent alike--are held in jail for more than year before trial.

Lise Olsen reports
in the Houston Chronicle:
Though the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to a speedy trial, at least 500 county inmates [out of 11,500] have been locked up for more than a year as they wait to be judged.
Around 200 inmates, theoretically innocent until proven guilty, appear to already have served more than the minimum sentence for the crime they allegedly committed.
About a third of all county jail inmates face drug possession charges.
Many people who can't afford to post bail simply stay in jail, including some accused only of misdemeanors.
Jurors decided [Holmes] was guilty after reviewing statements from arresting officers who said they found the pipe in his hip pocket. He got the minimum sentence of six months.
Holmes, his lawyer Joseph Varela says, insisted on his right to trial — even though in the end, it meant Holmes served far more time than he would have otherwise. In fact, Holmes has racked up about 800 days in jail at a total cost to taxpayers of more than $32,000 related to his charge of possession of a lone crack pipe — a minimum of $40 a day not counting legal or court costs, transportation and other expenses.
For the life of me I can't figure out why somebody would not be released on their own recognizance after having served their maximum sentence.

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