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PrattTribune - Pratt, KS
  • Court no-shows filling jail cells

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  • A disappearing act is happening in the court system in Pratt.
    More and more cases are in the court system are from "failure to appear" and a lack of concern to appear seems to be growing among the people charged with that crime.
    On Dec. 11, 45 percent of the inmates in jail are there for failure to appear and five of those are multiple offenses.
    So far in 2013, the highest percentage of arrests is for failure to appear. Of the 899 total arrests so far this year, 176 of those have been for failure to appear at a yearly average of 20 percent of all arrests.
    It is by far the most common reason people are in jail in Pratt County.
    "That is literally the bulk of it," Chinn said.
    It is expensive to house all those people when they are arrested. If each of those 176 with failure to appear spends just one day in jail, it costs the county $6,000.
    "That is a tremendous cost to the county," Chinn said.
    However, most people in custody for failure to appear spend more than one day in jail. If each of those 176 spent a week in jail, it would cost the county $43,000.
    And those figures are just for housing a prisoner. When someone has a summons in Pratt County and is in jail in another county, an officer has to make the trip to get the person, bring them to Pratt and then take them back and the tax payer has to pay for that trip. And this happens time and time again throughout the year.
    "This happens day in and day out. Just the cost of going and getting these people is amazing," Chinn said. "It adds tremendous cost to taxpayers in Pratt County."
    Taxpayers have to cover other costs as well. Court appointed attorneys submit a bill to the local district court judge and its up to the judge how much of that bill gets paid. But whatever gets paid comes out of the taxpayer's pocket.
    The cost of accountability is high and until something changes it will continue to remain high.
    In the meantime, the problem of failure to appear keeps growing in Pratt County and throughout Kansas and the U.S.
    About 99 percent of the people who receive a summons will simply make a court appearance and get the matter resolved. But those that don't make the effort don't seem to care or they are unable to appear because they are in jail in some other county also for failure to appear, Chinn said.
    It is not unusual for someone in jail with a failure to appear to get a summons from another county for the same thing. A tremendous number of them are not in Pratt County and it costs the county to go and get them.
    Page 2 of 2 - Part of the problem is that many of these people just don't seem to care. A large percentage of them have never paid taxes and could care less about meeting their legal obligations, Chinn said.
    Finding a solution for this problem is not easy. The legislature can't pass a law to make people care.
    When a person becomes a productive citizen, it creates a desire to do better. Unfortunately, many of these people come from homes that do not have a positive influence. Many are second and third generations in the court system and rarely come from a home with a productive lifestyle and that is sad, Chinn said.
    But environment isn't always the case. Sometimes these people come from good homes but just get away from their upbringing.
    No clear answer is apparent so for now the sheriff's office will continue to be the agent for the court and bring in these people as efficiently as they can.

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