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Solving the jail overcrowding problem is everybody’s responsibility

Putting it another way, we need to be choosier about whom we arrest.

The Houston Police Department stopped arresting people for minor traffic violations late Thursday, hours after Sheriff Adrian Garcia told the city to slow down the flow of arrestees into the county’s booking center.

“The impact is limited mainly to traffic violations. We’re not going to put people in jail for new or existing traffic violations,” HPD Assistant Chief Vicki King said. She said the leniency only applies to people who would have gone to jail for a combination of low-level offenses — weaving in traffic while driving without insurance, for example.

Arguably, the city should have been arresting fewer of these people all along, but certainly now when the city and the county are operating under serious financial constraints, this is how it should be. It’s simple – putting people in jail costs a lot more money than simply writing them a summons. Writing summonses also allows cops to stay on the streets more. The next logical step is to apply the same policy to low level drug offenders. It’s the smart thing to do, and it’s a painless way to cut costs at a time when cost cutting is paramount. What’s the big deal?

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