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Jail Overcrowding

Harold Edward Hill described his experience inside Madison County Detention Center in an article published by the Lexington Herald Leader. The detention center is known for its overcrowding and high-volume population, that the facility simply cannot keep up with. The conditions he describes are some people would never want to be exposed to or have to live with. He describes water leaking from walls causing mold, overcrowding, filth, sweltering heat, spoiled food and violence caused by other inmates. Those in the facility would sleep on concrete grounds without so much as a cot or mat and would be confined to spaces so small at some points they would be touching other inmates. With so many issues, it causes mental health breakdowns and many health issues that the inmates are unable to resolve. 

Harold filed a lawsuit including all these details, which were verified by reports filed by inspectors for the Kentucky Department of Corrections. All these issues are due to overcrowding and overpopulation in the facility. The Madison County jail is aware of the conditions and states “This is, and has been, an ongoing problem that we try to accommodate to the best of our ability.” The jail is built to hold 184 people but recently has held more than 400 people. With so many people and so little space, it is causing serious conflict and health violations.

Overcrowding is a problem in most facilities across the United States and many do not have the resources to deal with overcrowding or options to send inmates to other facilities to reduce prison populations. They are fined based on the violations but are struggling with finding solutions to reduce overcrowding. The Madison County jail is working to reduce these inhumane living conditions that inmates face but can only do so much with limited access to resources, space and funding. 

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Jail Overcrowding

More than 1,000 inmates are currently in Sullivan County Jail. They are at critical capacity and have received scrutiny for their handling of the situation. They only have 619 beds and are extremely understaffed. This lack of staff members makes it inherently difficult to properly care for inmates, and the jail is desperately in need of programs to alleviate the overcrowding dilemma. “It’s a very violent facility. We’re getting a lot of assaults, inmate on inmate assaults, inmate on officer assaults,” Sheriff Cassidy said. A new program has been developed for the jail with the intent to illuminate the reasons prisoners ended up incarcerated in the first place and provide them with the knowledge and skills they need to be productive citizens. 

David Stanley once served 17 months in this same jail for securities fraud and is now certified to lead the cognitive therapy program. The program takes place twice a week. Moral Reconation Therapy, or MRT, is a systematic therapy approach that aims to reduce recurrence by enhancing moral reasoning among juvenile and adult criminal offenders. It teaches that if you want your life to be better, you must be better. The second phase of the program teaches inmates vocational skills necessary for sustaining gainful employment when they are released. “We’re just looking forward to what the future holds and seeing these inmates flourish outside of jail.” Sheriff Cassidy said.

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Jail Overcrowding
Overcrowding is becoming a frightening dilemma for many jails. The Sarasota County Jail is no different. Building a new jail to house these excess inmates is incredibly expensive to taxpayers, costing upwards of $100 million. To ease this overcrowding, the County Sheriff’s Office is utilizing what they call a “pod” program. Sarasota United for Responsibility and Equity (SURE) introduced the Addiction Recovery Program in partnership with the Salvation Army and the Sheriff’s Office in Sarasota County. These pods are intended to reduce recidivism rates while increasing an inmate’s productivity while incarcerated. All inmates in a pod are housed together. Instead of the inmates having excessive free time, they spend that time in programs, meetings, and receiving help for their various needs. The pods are completely voluntary, and any interested inmates must sign up to be included in them. There are up to 48 inmates in each pod and violence of any kind is strictly prohibited.

There are a multitude of pods in the prison, each dedicated to a specific program for rehabilitation and life skills. The addiction recovery pod has been in use for ten years, and in 2019 two new pod programs are being implemented in the jail; the care pod and the re-entry pod. The care pod is focused on providing mental health assistance. In the re-entry pod inmates will take parenting classes, learn how to search for jobs, create resumes and learn the importance of financial stability. Many of the inmates in these pods don’t know about the importance of credit scores, financing vehicles or budgeting. Without these essential skills and a secure footing in how to survive outside of prison, there is a very high risk of them reoffending. The pod program has shown to be very efficient and has changed the lives of countless inmates.
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Jail Overcrowding

Jail overcrowding is one of the most increasingly devastating dilemmas plaguing our justice system. One Missouri county, with the assistance of a company called All Detainment Solutions, claims to have a fantastic and cost-effective fix – storing their surplus of inmates in semi-trailers in a parking lot surrounded by a wire fence. It has been one year since Greene County adopted this unconventional practice. There are currently 108 men living in the 52-foot semi-trailers, meaning that every person has space that is less than half the capacity of a ping-pong table. Greene County Sheriff, Jim Arnott, has assessed that most of the men in the trailers have been charged with a crime and are pending trial, some of them could even be innocent. Many legal experts have deemed the confined spaces in these trailers as inhumane. David Shapiro, former staff attorney for the ACLU’s National Prison Project, has deemed this temporary jail a “recipe for disaster.”


Until work is completed on their expanded jail, the situation is said to be temporary. However, the completion of the jail is still years away, with no specific date of completion. County officials have suggested that the temporary prison could be kept open even after the permanent facility has expanded. There is already a multimillion-dollar contract with Canyon County Idaho for All Detainment Solutions to build a similar jail, and most likely more to follow.

Though this temporary jail is a creative and cost-effective way to tackle the problem of overcrowding, it will not solve the problem. Overcrowding of our prisons is just an indication of a wider problem with our underfunded criminal justice system and lack of sufficient community services. Instead of investing in warehousing inmates, we should be investing in programs that allow low-risk offenders or those who can’t afford bail, to be released on community supervision, saving both space and money.

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Jail Overcrowding

In the beginning of February, the House of Delegates in West Virginia approved a bill to help alleviate the overcrowding of their regional jails. The bill (HB 2190) requires individuals charged with certain misdemeanors to be released on personal recognizance instead of bail. This leads to both humanitarian and practical advantages, according to House Judiciary Chairman, John Shott, R-Mercer. 


The House Judiciary Committee was informed last week by Deputy Corrections Commissioner, Mike Coleman, that counties paid regional jails $1.9 million in 2018 for defendants who could not post bail of $1,000 or less. In 2018, approximately 3,750 people were jailed on misdemeanor charges and spent 11 days in jail before they were capable of posting bond. With a total of 41,058 days billed to counties, this policy of bail for misdemeanor charges carried a hefty price of $48.25 a day.

Spending any amount of time in jail, even a few days, can drastically affect one’s ability to retain a job. It is not uncommon for those waiting in jail to lose their jobs due to missing days of work. Not being able to tend to children or support their family is also an unfortunate outcome of time spent in jail while waiting to pay bail.  Misdemeanors generally include petty theft, disturbing the peace, public drunkenness, and traffic violations. Booking misdemeanor offenders takes time away from law enforcement officers that could spend their time on more serious offenses.


Releasing those accused of nonviolent crimes on personal recognizance is unquestionably valuable in solving the encroaching problem of overcrowding regional prisons. Those charged with misdemeanors involving violence, the threat of violence, crimes where the victim is a minor, the use of a deadly weapon, violations of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act, or traffic offenses including negligent homicide or driving under the influence would still be required to pay cash bail. 


This legislation allowing the release of most individuals charged with non-violent crimes on personal recognizance bonds was advanced to the Senate, where it passed with a vote of 91 – 4. Reforms such as this bill, are necessary to mitigate the encroaching dilemma of jail overcrowding. In addition to allowing officers to be present for more serious offenses and giving offenders the accountability of appearing for their court date, the reform will grant counties the ability to allocate those costs to other budgets.
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Jail Overcrowding

According to the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC), the jail population in Coffee County has seen a 25 percent decline in recent weeks. Currently, there are about 320 prisoners in the county jail, roughly 100 fewer than a few months ago. The Sheriff’s Department of Coffee County works collectively with other county organizations and departments on the issue of reducing prison populations, while also ensuring that the community is free from risks. Coffee County has made such an improvement on their prison population primarily by utilizing modern technology.

In 2017, cases began being handled through a video conferencing system between the judges and inmates. The judge would sit on their bench in court while the inmates appear on a video monitor from the jail, completely negating fuel costs and saving taxpayers money. This practice is also safer and more secure. Before video conferences took place, arraignments could take all day and required the inmate to be placed in a holding cell in the justice center. If this trend continues, the change would lead to some $1.5 million in annual savings for taxpayers in the county.

Department officials are also examining various alternative prison practices like the use of a house arrest system with an ankle monitor. Though house arrest and electronically monitored parole has been very successful, using an ankle monitor carries a stigma and only provides the GPS location on a map. The TRACKPhone™ is a modern replacement for the ankle monitor and has a vast assortment of utilities, such as rehabilitative support, behavioral assessments and remote video meetings with parole officers. Ankle monitors can be excessively expensive, costing up to $40 a day. By taking advantage of TRACKTech technology, Coffee County could reduce their prison population even more while saving more money for the taxpayers.

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Jail Overcrowding

The dilemma of jail overcrowding has been a constant and difficult issue for countless states in our country. The most common answer to overcrowding is to simply build a new jail, but this can be incredibly costly to taxpayers and ultimately does not fix the fundamental cause of overcrowding. The Charleston County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council concluded that the best way to fix their issue of overcrowding was to lower the number of low risk offenders who are in their prisons. The council’s work has brought about reforms which in the last three years have produced promising results and caused many to reconsider their approach to criminal justice. Their efforts have reduced the jail population by an astonishing 25 percent.

In 2014, most of the jail’s inmates were there for relatively minor offenses such as trespassing, misdemeanor shoplifting, public intoxication, marijuana possession, or open container violations. The resources and space spent on these people with minor infractions was better reserved for more serious offenders. Instead of sending these minor offenders straight to jail, officers had begun writing citations instead. By 2017, the number of people imprisoned on a single charge involving one of these minor offenses decreased by 51 percent and the number of officials who issued citations instead of making arrests increased by 46 percent. This has made a huge difference in the amount of overcrowding in the Charleston County Jail and has kept those who committed these minor offenses from suffering the repercussions of having a criminal record.

Although these positive changes are outstanding, it is important to keep people culpable for breaking the law and never compromise public safety. These reforms are necessary if we are to make a positive difference in the overcrowding of jails and keep otherwise law-abiding citizens out of the criminal justice system. 

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Jail Overcrowding

Overcrowding in jails is one of the key problems faced in justice systems worldwide. In 2018, every single one of Hawaii’s jails were overcrowded. Minority groups have been deemed by experts to be unjustifiably impacted by overcrowding due to their financial status and as such are unable to afford bail. It is not uncommon for those who are not able to afford bail to be held for weeks, months, or even years at a time – before they have even been found guilty of a crime. This abundant amount of time away from their lives can be devastating. They can lose their jobs, housing and lose custody of their children.

Two bills, House Bill 175 and Senate Bill 192, have been implemented in the state capitol with the intent to reduce the financial burden faced by those detained by offering judges additional options for securing bail. These bills are one of many being proposed by states across the country to reform the detrimental bail system. If this legislation were approved, it would enable defendants to be released until their trial date on a bond that does not require the full, or any, portion of the bail to be paid. Only those who can demonstrate that they are unable to cover the cost of the cash bail without experiencing significant financial hardship are eligible for this accommodation.

With substantial reforms to a process as critical as bail, criticism is warranted. It has been disputed that this level of bail reform could risk public safety by releasing accused offenders too soon without the looming obligation of financial constraint. However, advocates for the bill have attested that it will establish an accountability to defendants by requiring that they would still be responsible for paying the bail amount if they were to fail to attend court, or if they committed additional crimes while on bail.  Hundreds of thousands of possibly innocent people languish in jails while their lives fall apart simply because they can’t afford bail, and reforms like this bill hope to make a substantial improvement.

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Jail Overcrowding

Although the bond reform in Illinois has reduced prison overcrowding substantially, it may be detrimental to public safety. According to Cara Smith, the Chief Policy Officer for the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, keeping track of the 300 offenders who have removed their ankle bracelets is a challenge that has gotten much more difficult since bond reform. An order was made in 2017 by the Cook County Chief Judge, Tim Evans, that would require judges to set affordable bonds for defendants that did not pose a danger to the public.

Bond reforms have become very prevalent in many states and Illinois is no different. Elected officials have been trying to release those who were being detained in Cook County Jail while they await trial. Unfortunately, this has caused an increase in violent offenders with serious criminal histories being released early. Tristian Hamilton, a convicted felon with a criminal history of gun charges and aggravated robbery, was released with electronic monitoring, and he went AWOL in December 2018, without any form of supervision or communication of his whereabouts. Smith insists that this problem is one that not only the sheriff’s office should be concerned with, but the whole county stakeholders. A terrifying dilemma to this extent directly impacts public safety and it is a collateral response to reform.

Reliable technology is necessary to manage this complicated result of reform, especially for high risk, violent offenders. Reliable accountability for the whereabouts of these offenders is necessary to ensure they are taking the proper steps towards reintegration into their communities and ceasing their life of crime. 

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