Keep Criminals in Jail

Bill Hunt
Guest Columnist

The Office of the Sheriff is responsible for maintaining our county jails. Yet, our appointed sheriff Sandra Hutchens has released more than 400 criminals early back into our community. Despite having 1400 open jail beds, the interim Sheriff continues the unsafe practice of citing and releasing all misdemeanor arrestees. This practice was instituted by court order to relieve a jail overcrowding problem that no longer exists. Daily, non violent felonies are released with nothing more than a promise to appear in court. They are not required to post bail or provide any other guarantee to appear as promised and many flee.

Criminal attorneys and bail bondsman are legitimate components of a normally functioning criminal justice system. They are private alternatives to excessive government bureaucracies that have greatly exceeded their mandate. Both contribute to the economy, create jobs and save tax payers millions of dollars annually.

When a criminal defendant fails to appear after posting bail, the bail company that guaranteed their appearance in court remains financially responsible for the entire amount of the bond. They have real incentive to ensure their client appears in court. As it stands, criminals that fail to appear after being cited and released or released on their own recognizance are accountable to no one and no one actively looks for them when they skip. They are simply piled onto the more than 134,000 (23,160 felony and 111,690 misdemeanor) currently outstanding warrants with no one actively looking for them.

To make matters worse, our unelected sheriff wants to lease open jail beds to the federal government to house criminal illegal aliens essentially turning our jails into a federal detention center. Today’s misdemeanor is tomorrow’s felon. How can anyone argue the interim sheriff’s plan is in best interest of public safety in this county? It is time we stop bailing out the federal government for their failures on illegal immigration enforcement.

The Sheriff’s Department needs real leadership that puts the burden for criminal activity on the criminals rather than the taxpayer and makes public safety the priority over short sighted quick fixes, like firing cops to save money.

§ Bill Hunt is a candidate for Orange County Sheriff. His name will appear on your June ballot.  Another article about Hunt may be found in the OC Weekly.

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