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New Report: Non-Violent Offenders Running Up Tulsa County Jail Costs

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TULSA, Oklahoma -

New solutions are in the works to cut the number of people in Tulsa's jail, with the focus is non-violent offenders.

As of Thursday, there were 1,419 inmates locked up in the Tulsa County Jail, and many, according to a study, would do better if they were out while their legal problems are resolved.

Tulsa's jail is not full, but even with a bed for everyone, the cost of running it keeps the spotlight on cutting the numbers.

An 18-month long study of Tulsa inmates, presented to County Commissioners Thursday, determined that many have non-violent charges, with plenty held simply because they couldn't come up with bond money.

"The jail overcrowding issues we have in Tulsa in large part are based on overcrowding of low level, criminal defendants," said Tulsa County Public Defender Corbin Brewster. 

The public defender and chief prosecutor agree on changes to reduce arrests for non-violent crimes, especially repeated arrests of the same people.

"We're trying to figure out a way to address that so we don't have to deal with them over and over again," said Tulsa County DA Steve Kunzweiler.

The study covered the 19,485 people jailed at least once in 2016.

46% were held primarily for municipal or misdemeanor charges.
    
The most common charges involved drugs, public intoxication, and DUI.

The fourth most common charge keeping people in jail was court costs.

Domestic abuse, the most common violent crime, was number 5 on the list.

The city of Tulsa will open a new lockup for municipal inmates next month and start a new diversion program for public intoxication cases, and both will cut down the county jail population.

"A lot of people caught with public intoxication have other issues in their life, mental health issues or homelessness, and maybe there's a better way to provide service to those individuals so they're not using the county jail as the place to sleep off their drunk," said Kunzweiler.

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