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Is House Arrest the Answer for Overcrowded Prisons?

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GOLDSBORO — Like many lock-ups, the Wayne County jail is overcrowded. One of the proposed solutions is letting suspects who should be behind bars out before their trial.

Wayne County's jail is only 4-years-old, but it is already filled to capacity. A few weeks ago, the 200 bed facility was packed with more than 240 inmates.

County leaders say that putting some of them on house-arrest could free up space for the more threatening suspects.

You will not see an empty cell often in Wayne County. Like many facilities across the state, this jail is crowded and getting worse.

To make room, county leaders may opt to let certain non-violent suspects wait for their court dates at home instead of in jail.

"The reason we're exploring this is the fact that it costs taxpayers a lot of money to keep people in jail. It's a very expensive operation," said Will Sullivan, Wayne County manager.

Since taxpayers shelled out $12.5 million to open the jail four years ago, the number of inmates has doubled.

Jail administrator Glenn Odom believes the pre-trial release idea would help temporarily but would not solve the long-term problem. Crime stats may be down in many areas but not here.

"We appear to have more serious crimes being committed. We have young people being incarcerated for very serious crimes such as kidnapping and burglaries. That was almost unheard of to the extent it is today," said Odom.

Wayne County is looking at programs that are already underway in Harnett and Lee Counties.

They have to decide who would qualify for their program. They insist that dangerous suspects will not be considered.

"These people are not proven guilty until they go to court, so they do stand some reasonable chance of being able to get out on some type of a program," said Sullivan.

County leaders say they would not allow someone charged with a violent crime to be let free. They say that drunk driving suspects will also be skipped over.


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