Not long ago I had a conversation with a reporter friend who lives in Florida. The subject of the conversation was the dire state of affairs with the criminal justice system and jail overcrowding. Northern Florida jails are squeaking at the seams.

What was causing the problem, and what if any, was the solution?

Without doubt the experts in this field are the Berkley California based Institute Of Law And Policy Planning. This think tank is led by Dr. Alan Kalmanoff. The ILPP has been in existence for 30 years, and its mission is to help States, Counties, and Cities analyze and streamline their criminal justice system. As luck would have it I happen to know Alan Kalmanoff, not through his work in the field of Criminal Justice, but rather as the result of a book he published, Second Ticket To The Dance.

I contacted Alan Kalmanoff and he agreed to an interview. I am sure that the poor man was rolling his eyes at some of my questions, but I am a layman and wanted to to understand in simple terms what was going on.

I like many people,  read about the jail overcrowding problem and have come to the conclusion that either crime is on the upswing, or cities and counties have failed to maintain infrastructure as the population has grown.

Alan Kalmanoff listened politely and then explained that neither of my observations were correct. Crime rates have been falling for a number of years and local authorities have done a good job in maintaining the infrastructure, the problem lays elsewhere. Much of the overcrowding is caused by people in the pre-trial phase.

By streamlining the criminal justice system it is possible to not only solve the overcrowding issue, but also save very significant amounts of money. Many of the people waiting for trial are there for non violent and some might say trivial misdemeanor crimes. Alan Kalmanoff advocates processing these cases with speed. Why incarcerate someone for 30 days waiting for a court appearance when the likely outcome of that appearance will be the granting of bail anyway?

This of course opened the door to my obvious question, is Alan Kalmanoff soft on crime? It was at this point I was glad that he was a couple of thousand miles away, else I suspect I would have been sporting a bloody nose. He made it very clear that he is not soft on crime, quite the opposite. He has some very creative ideas, ones that not only save tax payers money but actively help the community.

These were only a couple of topics that Alan Kalmanoff and I touched on in the interview. One thing however is clear, there are many options to resolve the problem of jail overcrowding without compromising public safety.

I came away from the interview with great respect for Alan Kalmanoff and the ILPP. The task they face is a hard one. In my simple mind, Alan is selling the idea that less is more, this goes against human nature, companies or agencies think bigger is better. Yet reality is that you can indeed achieve more if the tools are used correctly. Alan Kalmanoff came out with the classic quote:

Three hots and a cot are not the solution

How right he is! The success rate that Alan Kalmanoff and the ILPP has had speaks volumes.  I posed the question of how much money they had saved, and that number is now well over a Billion dollars.

You can listen to the entire interview here.

Simon Barrett

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