Mecklenburg County commissioners on Tuesday approved a policy that gives judges more flexibility in granting defendants pretrial supervision – allowing them to remain out of jail before their trials.
The new policy, which replaces one the board approved in 2011, is based less on the severity of the offense, but assesses public safety and the risk of defendants appearing in court, said Tom Eberly, director of the county’s pretrial services.
Yet under the new policy, high-risk defendants, regardless of the charge, are ineligible for supervision services. Charges related to murder, sex, robbery or escape are automatically ineligible, Eberly said.
“If you have a low-level offender, or someone who is not a risk, you do more harm keeping that person in jail than keeping that person out of jail and allowing him to work,” County Manager Dena Diorio said in an interview. “There’s a higher likelihood of success.”
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Last week, commissioners were briefed by Eberly, Chief District Court Judge Regan Miller and District Court Judge Matt Osman on the new policy, all strongly encouraging the board to support the changes.
Eberly said the new policy provides more information to judges about a defendant. He said 93 percent of defendants who go through pretrial services are not rearrested. That number drops to 67 percent for those who don’t go through the supervision.
“The current policy is too restrictive and does harm to the public safety,” he said.
By lifting restrictions, Osman said, “you’re giving judges more discretion to look at a defendant’s history and the risk of re-offending.”