SARASOTA-As the Sarasota County jail population increases, county officials are at a cross roads.
What happens when a jail exceeds capacity? With an increasing number of third-degree felons, Sarasota County jail might could be facing this dilemma within two to three years.
The facility’s operational capacity is 867 inmates; currently they’re standing at around 870. Moving forward, county officials now have two options.
Build a brand new jail. Costing upwards of 80 million dollars.
“Have to find out where to locate it, how to build it, where to find the money for it, how you’re going to do it,” said Sarasota County Sheriff, Tom Knight.
Or fund rehab programs to get opioid offenders and others recovered and back into society.
Sheriff Tom Knight chooses the latter, “It’s become a facility that houses addicts and mental health. I believe we can do better. It does cost a lot of money to do mental health. To do recover, to do addiction recovery, But I believe as a sheriff, it is much more expensive to build a jail than it is to do recovery.”
Because a handful keep coming back.
“When you get a drug addict, who is arrested and brought into the jail, he or she, for court resolution, spends on average of sixty to 65 days, they go back out, they’re still addicted they commit another minor crime, they violate their probation, they come back in as a felon, they spend another sixty to 65 days,” said Knight.
And this vicious cycle is costly, “We have medical facilities in there, we have to feed them, we have to house them.”
Rehab programs would push these offenders out…and hopefully keep them out for good.
Knight said, “Get people healthy. Get them out of the jail and get them back in our work force, get them back in society.”
The final decision is up to county commissioners and tax payers. Both parties believe something has to change.
“If we keep building more jails, and it’s not working. We keep having a need for more jails. We need to try something new. What we’re doing now is not working so we need to change the way we think,” said Sarasota resident, Taylor Tremaine.
Sarasota County commissioners agreed to work with the Sheriff’s office to put together a plan of action.
Commissioners recently approved a new budget plan to make cuts in order to fun inmate programs.