County Jails at a Crossroads: An Examination of the Jail Population and Pretrial Release

Source: Natalie Ortiz, National Association of Counties, NACo Why Counties Matter Paper Series, Issue 2, July 2015

From the summary:
County governments provide essential services to create healthy, safe, vibrant and economically resilient communities. Maintaining safe and secure communities is one of the most important functions of county governments. Most counties are involved in almost every aspect of law enforcement and crime prevention, including policing, judicial and legal services and corrections. Counties own 87 percent of all jails in the United States through which they provide supervision, detention and other correctional services to more than 700,000 persons in an effort to protect public safety and reduce recidivism. Effective jail management along with fair justice system policies and practices results in strategic management of the jail population and prudent county spending on the corrections system. One way to effectively manage the jail population is to improve the pretrial release process. Pretrial policies and practices involve defendants awaiting resolution to their case. Using the results of a 2015 NACo survey of county jails, an examination of the pretrial population in jail and policies impacting pretrial release in county jails finds:
– The majority of the confined county jail population is pretrial and low risk.
– County jails are caught between courts’ decision-making and increases in the jail population and jail costs.
– Counties own 87% of jails
– 67% of the confined county jail population is pretrial
– 40% of county jails use a risk assessment
– 60% of the confined population in county jails using a risk assessment is low risk
– 74% rise in county corrections spending between 2000 and 2012
– 44% of county jails report reducing jail costs a serious issue