Sunday, May 26, 2013

The court & the jail: what's the relationship btwn the two?

"The court (can't/won't/isn't going to) tell the jail what to do or interfere with the jail and its policies."

Occasionally I hear this from judges when I request something on behalf of an in-custody defendant. I have to admit that I find it both confusing & frustrating. I don't know if there is some official rule or policy that applies or if it's just the decision of the judges that I have asked. But it does drive me a little nutty.

I don't understand, bc the court does order the jail to do things...all the time, in fact. They order the jail to take people into custody, they order the jail to release people on furlough, they order jails to transport defendants in jail in other counties to court... So courts can and do order jails to do things. And what if there was a situation @ the jail that violated a defendant's constitutional rights? Would the court be unable to do anything about that to ensure that the defendant's rights are being vindicated?

For example, I heard of a jail that had a policy that any inmates who were in seg were not allowed to receive visitors & were only allowed to make phone calls from 11 p.m. to midnight. This included visits from their attorneys and calls to their attorneys. So, the result was the defendants in seg were never allowed to meet w/ their attorneys and could not call their attorneys during normal business hours. In effect, this policy completely denied defendants the right to be represented by their attorneys because they never were allowed to talk to them. Ultimately, a defense attorney raised the issue to the court & the court ordered that the policy against visitors/phone calls for seg inmates could not apply to contact w/ attorneys.

But what if the court had said that it could not tell the jail what to do in that situation? The jail had a policy & the court couldn't/wouldn't interfere? The court is charged w/ ensuring defendants are treated fairly & their rights are protected in the system, so does that not include in the jail while waiting for their cases to resolve?
I wouldn't expect the courts to do something like order that the jail must serve tacos on Friday or anything like that. But what about situations where the jail policy prevents someone from bailing out? I have seen that occur. Bail gets lowered to an amount the defendant can post, but the defendant's wallet is in his property @ the jail & he isn't allowed to access his property while in custody. So, he can't get to his money to post bail, despite having the money to post bail. Or he needs to make a phone call to a family member or friend to have them line up a bail bondsman but they don't have any phone credit, so they can't call & can't bail out. What is the remedy, if any, in those situations?

Is the court w/o the authority or ability to order that the defendant be allowed to access his money or to make a call to get his bail arranged? It seems like there should be some ability of the court to ensure that silly things like that don't keep someone in jail who would otherwise be able to bail out. Keep in mind, if the person has had bail set, they are still considered innocent so the end result is that innocent people are stuck in jail bc of jail policies, rather than a court order or sentence. It seems unfair & ridiculous to me, but of course, I recognize I may be biased.

Maybe there is a policy that prevents the courts from ordering certain things and that explains the reluctance to do so. But if there is, it's not one I know about, so I am just left confused & wondering when can a court order the jail to do things??

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