Broward Judge Pushing to Release Non-Violent Offenders

The Broward County Public Defender’s Office wrote a letter to county officials Friday, arguing that people arrested for misdemeanor crimes are spending too much time behind bars because they can’t afford to pay their bond– which is sometimes just a few hundred dollars.

Defense attorneys insist low bonds skew court systems to favor those who can afford to pay lower bonds, allowing them immediate release and leaving those with less means in a lurch.

But the burden is also falling on the taxpayers; it costs the county about $140 per day to house, feed and give medical care to each inmate. The numbers add up to more than $2 million per year spent on non-violent inmates who can’t pay low bonds.

Here’s just one example: if you get arrested for writing a bad check and go to jail, you’re given a low bond– lets say $500– but if you can’t pay it, you could remain in jail for weeks or months.

“The jail shouldn’t be housing for individuals just because they’re poor. These folks have lives, they need to take care of their families, get back to work,” said Gordon Weekes, Chief Asst. Public Defender.