Jefferson County Jail Overcrowding
Law enforcement grapples with growing problem
Saturday, August 18, 2012 6:00 AM
When Jefferson County Sheriff John Wallace took office in January 2011, the average daily inmate population at the county jail was around 70. In less than two years, it has doubled, reaching 140 inmates earlier this week.
$1,000,000 bond set for one inmate
One inmate at the Jefferson County Jail is being held on a $1,000,000 bond.
He was arrested in February on allegations that he committed a residential entry against a woman. A no-contact order was issued, but the man contacted the victim after he bonded out in June, according to Prosecutor Chad Lewis.
The suspect was arrested on a charge of invasion of privacy. He posted bond again and police allege he made contact with his victim again, prompting him to be rearrested on an additional invasion of privacy charge.
"He won't stay away from his victim and the only way to ensure that is to keep him in custody," Lewis said.
As of Friday morning, there were 129 inmates- 100 men and 29 women. Their average age is 30.8 years. At $45 a day per inmate, it costs the county about $5,800 a day to hold all the inmates at the jail.
Now officials are weighing their options to determine how to proceed. During an executive session this week, Wallace said, the County Council said it intends to give him money to hire five additional jailers to handle the overcrowding. Wallace said he and they will do whatever is necessary to handle the increasing population.
Officials are also in the beginning stages of a renovation to the jail that will increase the capacity from 92 to 112. The last renovation was finished in 2007 and increased the jail population from 50.
When looking at the charges against inmates, 66 have charges related to drugs or alcohol, but Wallace thinks that 80 percent of all inmates are being held on charges related to drugs, including burglaries or theft.
"The crime they commit was related to getting money for drugs," he said.
It's hard to pinpoint why the jail population has increased. The Jefferson County prosecutor's office is on pace for 1,616 criminal cases this year, which is a slight increase from last year.
By that estimate, Prosecutor Chad Lewis said that means about 8 percent of all the people who will be arrested this year are currently being held in jail.
"I don't have a study, but 8 percent does not stand out to me as a large number," Lewis said.
Across the country, some counties are releasing lower-level offenders to combat overcrowding. Lewis does not want the county to just begin releasing inmates from the jail.
"I think it's a dangerous game to look at our jail and say, 'OK, we have to start letting people out,'" he said.
There are no guidelines for setting bonds in particular cases. It all depends on the circumstances of the case and the defendant.
"You look at the aggravating circumstances surrounding the arrest or the crime. You look at the person's criminal history. You look at the person's connections to the community," Lewis said.
One case that argues against lowering bonds is that of Demetrice Thornton, who was arrested in 2008 on cocaine charges. Thornton had no connections to the area, other than he came here to deal drugs.
Despite that, his bond was lowered and Thornton was released from jail. While he was out on bond, Thornton was arrested for killing two people in Louisville.
There are seven people with bonds that are $100,000 or more and 21 people have bonds of $1,000 or less. A total of 35 inmates have no bond.
There are two main reasons an inmate would be held without bond: Because they have probation violations - 27 percent of jail inmates - or requests for holds from other jurisdictions - 16 percent. One-fifth of inmates in the jail have multiple cases pending.
"I don't think this is an issue where we need to reduce our jail population because as I look, I don't see any inmates who don't deserve to be there," Lewis said.