New Bail Policy Drastically Reduces Prison Overcrowding in Bannock County
A local news station in Bannock County, Idaho published an article on how one problem, COVID-19, has solved another problem, overcrowding, in their county jail. Sheriff Lorin Nielson recounts how Bannock County Jail is much too small for the number of people being kept there. The jail has seen overcrowding for six or seven years according to Nielson. This overpopulation problem has caused chaos in the jail, including riots, fights and major lack of space for inmates. Additionally, the funding to build a new, larger jail is not possible as it is not appealing to county taxpayers.
However, COVID-19 seems to be helping reduce the jail population. The courts have been sending people home on what they call “their own recognizance”, which is a no-cash bail system. Instead of sitting in jail until they are able to post bail, they are being sent home without having to pay a bail fee. People being sent home are normally incarcerated for a DUI or misdemeanor violations, including technical ones. With these people being able to go home, there has been a major reduction in overcrowding and unnecessary individuals in jail. Usually, the jail reaches capacity at 333 people but last Wednesday reported there were only 250 people incarcerated. This has been the lowest number of people incarcerated in a while says Sheriff Nielson.
Also, “own recognizance” is helping contain the spread of COVID-19, as it mitigates officers, personnel and inmates being exposed to new people coming in who may have the disease. This keeps everyone safer and helps reduce contact between individuals. The new policy is helping reduce overcrowding and keep people safer in uncertain and hard times.