A new report lambasting operations at the Macomb County Jail reveals several myths about the criminal justice system overall.
The Macomb jail may serve as an egregious example but some of the findings in the report are, in today’s Internet jargon, just “jaw-dropping.” Foremost is the statistic that shows only 0.57 percent of criminal cases in the county go to trial. Of nearly 23,000 cases in 2014, 132 jury or bench trials resulted.
In other words, about 99 percent who are arraigned on charges wind up with a plea bargain. But not before many of them spend nearly a year in jail “awaiting trial.”
According to The Macomb Daily, the report compiled by a consulting firm found that nearly 80 percent of county inmates are in a pre-trial phase, awaiting disposition of their case. The average stay is 313 days. Worse yet, due to an overload of cases in the system, many of these defendants eventually reach a deal in which they plead guilty to the original charge.
To be clear, most of these people are not hard-core criminals, they simply cannot afford the bail or fees that county judges require. Or they are put behind bars for a non-violent offense. More than half of the sentences handed down in misdemeanor cases handled by district and circuit court result in jail time.
Yet, 43 percent of all jail inmates were primarily charged with a drug crime. Thirty-five percent of those charged with misdemeanors and 23 percent of those facing a felony were jailed due to a public order offense, typically “minor nuisance alcohol-related offenses.” Of all inmates, the report said, “an astounding 25 percent had been previously hospitalized for a mental health episode.”
This is the reality of our criminal justice system, not the TV dramas which give viewers the impression that they reflect reality.