Written by Meghan Levine, Justice Associate.
Whether your jail is overcrowded, becoming increasingly expensive to operate or you’re looking to incorporate evidence-based decision making into bond hearings and other pretrial detention decisions, you’re not alone. Between June 2010 and June 2011, local jails admitted nearly 11.8 million individuals and, on any given day, over 60 percent of jail inmates were held while awaiting trial. It’s estimated that the pretrial detention of defendants in county jails costs taxpayers a total of $9 billion annually and can lead to a higher risk of unemployment, increased odds of becoming delinquent on child support and other recurring payments, and a greater likelihood of recidivating upon release.
Many counties have found that incorporating pretrial justice reforms, such as assessing risk, can provide an effective way to carefully reduce jail populations and lower jail spending while maintaining due process and without compromising public safety. In order to highlight some of the many resources available to county officials interested in pretrial justice reforms, NACo has created a new Front-End Justice Reform: Pretrial Justice Resource page. This webpage contains links to past publications, webinars, articles and workshops, among other resources. In addition, it will feature a series of county profiles designed to share the experiences of select counties throughout the country.
The first county to be profiled on the resource page is Mesa County, Colo. Located on Colorado’s western slope, Mesa County has an estimated population of 153,712 and encompasses 3,300 square miles. Due to jail overcrowding, Mesa County formed a Criminal Justice Leadership Group to make policy changes to improve their criminal justice system and implemented pretrial justice strategies. As a result of these changes, Mesa County saved 95,630 jail bed days and avoided spending $1.5 million in 2012. For additional information about Mesa County’s pretrial justice program and how these results were achieved, please click here.
To learn more, please visit the Front-End Justice Reform page and continue to check back for updates to the page as additional county profiles are added.