County officials are looking at other ways of reducing the overall jail bill. Last year, they introduced a bill to the Legislature allowing counties to pay for only half a day for prisoners who don't spend an entire day in jail. That bill failed, but Fontalbert said county officials will propose the legislation again.
County officials are also talking with officials from Charleston and South Charleston about prosecuting more misdemeanor defendants through municipal court, where jail sentences are limited to 30 days and judges may have more leeway to impose sentences other than jail time.
Fontalbert said the Charleston Police Department makes more arrests than any other police agency in the county, and therefore takes more people to jail. Although they're arrested by city police, county officials pay the jail bill.
Plants said in most states, misdemeanors committed inside city limits and investigated by city police are prosecuted in municipal court.
Assistant Kanawha County prosecutor Dan Holstine said municipal judges are more likely to be familiar with defendants arrested inside the city and have a better idea who should be jailed and who shouldn't.
"The city investigates crimes in the city, and the county investigates crimes outside the city," Holstine said. "It's the same idea." He said municipal judges might also be better equipped to move defendents more quickly through the city court system, requiring less jail time.
Fontalbert said it could save the county money if more of those offenders arrested by city police are handled through the municipal court system.
Charleston City Attorney Paul Ellis said city officials will review the city's criminal cases and figure out if it's possible to prosecute more offenders in city court rather than the county court system.
"We're interested in what's in the best interests of the public," he said.
Reach Rusty Marks at rustyma...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.