Mar 8, 2014 1:05 PM by KATC
A legislator has prefiled a bill that would move the city-parish one step closer to getting a full-time misdemeanor jail.
House Bill 915 by state Rep. Alfred Williams, D-Baton Rouge, would create funding to operate the Baton Rouge City Jail as a misdemeanor jail.
The Advocate reported the city jail, which can hold up to 150 people, now is used as a temporary holding and processing center for about 20 people a day.
The bill would authorize the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge, Baker City Court and Baton Rouge City and Family courts to levy a $50 warrant recall fee to people who fail to appear in court for misdemeanor and traffic violations, creating a funding stream for the jail for misdemeanor offenders.
When the person is arrested, the warrant is recalled, which is when the fee would be levied, District Attorney Hillar Moore III said.
Moore said it would be up to judges as to whether the fee is imposed.
The money would go into an account managed by various clerks of court and would be used for operating the jail, the bill says.
Attempts to reach Williams for comment were unsuccessful.
If the law passes, officers would be able to jail misdemeanor offenders instead of writing a summons. The bill also allows for offender names, fingerprints, photos and offenses to be entered into the criminal system, Moore said.
Misdemeanor citations do not appear on a person's criminal record so prosecutors, when working on a felony case, do not know how often a suspect has been issued a misdemeanor summons, Moore said. Booking them also means they go would before a judge for a bail hearing.
Misdemeanor offenders can be booked into Parish Prison, but there are space issues inside the prison that limit how many misdemeanor offenders are jailed, City Constable Reginald Brown said, so the misdemeanor jail would alleviate that concern.
The idea of a misdemeanor jail has been considered for a few years by city-parish officials and has supporters among top law enforcement officials.
"We believe that it could really help us reduce crime and reduce the number of outstanding warrants we have," Moore said.
Moore and Brown estimate there are at least 100,000 - perhaps as many as 160,000 - outstanding traffic and misdemeanor warrants in the city-parish.
"It's a crowd that Tiger Stadium would like to have on every game," Moore said.