Baton Rouge City Court raised about $184,000 in additional revenue in a three-week period connected to a special operation in which the downtown City Jail remained open 24 hours a day to house misdemeanor offenders, City Court officials said.
The trial period lasted two weeks, but City Court officials calculated revenue generated over three weeks because an influx of people went to the court the week before the period began, City Court Administrator Lon Norris said.
East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux and other local law enforcement authorities announced the trial period June 11. Hundreds of people lined up at City Court in the days afterward to resolve their outstanding warrants and avoid imprisonment.
The official period began June 18 and ended June 29.
“The latter week, we didn’t see real large numbers of people to pay,” Norris said. “They just wanted to get their warrants recalled.”
By comparison, the city-parish raised more than $191,000 in additional revenue in only two weeks in a similar operation in 2011.
In the 19th Judicial District Court, more than $32,000 in additional revenue was collected in the same three-week time period, Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks said.
City Court also recalled 6,837 warrants during the three-week period, Norris said. Of those recalls, 4,800 could be attributed directly to the special jail operation, he said.
The number of warrants cleared because of voluntary compliance will not be available until a full report is completed in about two weeks, Norris said.
In state District Court, warrant recall figures for the three-week period were not available as of Tuesday.
In addition, city-parish law enforcement agencies arrested at least 367 people during the two-week trial period, Hicks said.
In the special jail operation in 2011, the city-parish cleared 772 warrants via 348 arrests, along with 5,131 warrants cleared because of voluntary efforts, Hicks has said.
The operations are designed to resolve some of the hundreds of thousands of outstanding warrants in the parish.
City Jail can hold up to 150 people but usually only sees about 20 per day for temporary holding and processing. Its doors are normally open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The additional revenue raised will eventually be rerouted to city-parish agencies to pay for costs of the special operation, Norris said.
City Court officials estimated last year that a misdemeanor facility would cost about $2.2 million annually to keep open 24 hours a day.
City Constable Reginald Brown said Tuesday that he expects the projected cost to be about the same.
Brown said his office, which runs the City Jail, would need additional funding for startup costs, such as hiring a full-time warden and more deputies for night shifts, to keep the jail open 24 hours a day.
However, Brown said, additional revenues generated from more people paying tickets to avoid jail time could be enough to fund the jail in the long run as long as the revenues were dedicated to jail operations.
“The threat of their freedom being taken away from them is going to drive them to take care of (their tickets),” Brown said.
The Metro Council set aside $50,000 for this year’s operation, mostly to fund personnel costs.
Mayor Pro Tem Mike Walker has said the council will continue to search for funds to pay for a 24-hour misdemeanor facility.
The council also adopted a resolution in October urging all judges in the parish to impose a $50 warrant recall fee for anyone who misses a misdemeanor or traffic ticket court date. The fee is designed to help fund a 24-hour misdemeanor facility.
However, District Attorney Hillar Moore III has said that state district judges have not uniformly adopted the resolution and that the decision to impose a bench warrant recall fee will be up to each judge on a case-by-case basis.