Letter: Expand alternatives to jail

In the new Suffolk County Correctional Facility in

In the new Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Yaphank, one correction officer mans this entire pod. (March 22, 2013) (Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams, Jr.)

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Your editorial calling for Suffolk to come up with alternatives to building the second phase of its new jail should be heeded by county officials ["Turning point for Suffolk jail," June 10].

Along with releasing defendants rather than assigning small bails for minor offenses, the county should move fast to expand and develop other alternatives to reduce the jail population.

Why not shift probation officers to the courts to expand the existing supervised release program? Other programs that the county contracts for with community-based nonprofits could be expanded. Such programs treat mentally ill inmates, substance abusers and veterans.

The county should also consider using an outside agency as a "charitable bail bondsman" to post small bonds for indigent defendants. New York State passed legislation last year permitting this type of initiative, which has been successful in other jurisdictions.

These programs can help reduce the jail population without jeopardizing public safety.

Jerry Bilinski, Riverhead

Editor's note: The writer works for a nonprofit organization providing case management services to mentally ill inmates.

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