Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Taxpayers bear the high cost
of jailing the homeless

It costs taxpayers about $925 when Sarasota police arrest a homeless person for drinking beer in public or sleeping behind a church.

Aggressive enforcement of city ordinances targeting the homeless has led to 1,427 arrests over the past three years, costing taxpayers
$1.3 million, an analysis by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune shows.

Would the money be better spent building housing and shelters and addressing the root problems of homelessness?

"It's not only the right thing, but the most fiscally responsible thing to do," said Richard Martin, former Sarasota mayor and now executive director of the Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness. "We're forced into finding a better model at this point."

Among the homeless people in court recently was Jeffrey Gale, 48, who pleaded guilty to an open container charge. He took a 15-day sentence with credit for time served, meaning he was to get out the next day. Then there is $298 in court costs and fines. Gale already owes $6,065 in similar fees and fines. Even if he paid those today, it would be a small dent in the more than $41,000 his 45 arrests have cost taxpayers.

Read the Herald-Tribune article here.


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