Medical expenses on rise for criminals

Image: WTVC

If you’re a victim of a crime, do you expect police to keep the suspect in custody? Many say criminals should not be let free.

But local law enforcement says there are tax dollars at stake.

“I may not like it but I do what the law says,” said Sheriff Bo Burnett of Marion County.

Bo Burnett has been Marion County’s Sheriff for 17 years. But this last year the county faced a new problem.

“They basically don't care about their health then they get to jail and expect tax payers to pay everything,” said Burnett.

The Marion County Sheriff’s Department spent $900,000 in medical costs for criminals in 2017. Those are tax dollars.

“You have to draw the line sometime and just let the chips fall,” said Burnett.

That line etched between public safety and saving money.

“it has to be weighed out in the big picture,” said Ft. Oglethorpe Police Chief, Mike Helton.

Fort Oglethorpe Police made the decision last week between paying for medical bills of a suspected thief or releasing him from custody.

“it’s a property crime and they made a decision they can get warrants and deal with him another day,” said Helton, referring to Chris Odell, a suspected thief.

The victim of the robbery is not happy police let him go.

“Somebody dropped the ball, letting a felon get loose on the street,” said Jeremy Morrow, owner of M&M Produce.

But leaders like Sheriff Jim Hammond say it’s too expensive to always stay with a suspect.

“Anytime we have to tie up men at the hospital, it really cuts in to our budget,” said Hammond.

“I can understand a victim being disgruntled by that. But they have to look at the big picture,” said Burnett.

Revealing a criminal comes with a costly decision.

For violent offenders, police in Tennessee and Georgia say they do stay with the suspect at the hospital.

That means the county is responsible for paying the medical bill.

According to Tennessee law -- a county jail cannot refuse to accept an inmate due to a medical issue. The Georgia Sheriffs Association says they *can turn a person away.

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