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Community Supervision

With COVID-19 still being rampant in the United States, release of individuals from prisons and jails has been a solution to overcrowding. A recent article highlights how Tuolumne County Court won funds for a pilot pretrial release program. Tuolumne County Court Executive Officer Hector Gonzalez shared a new pretrial pilot program under a two-year grant to improve pretrial release practices, which began on June 30th. The program was created to address jail overcrowding, reduce failures to appear, prioritize community safety and reduce discrimination based on wealth and race. Tuolumne was chosen with 17 other counties to participate in the pretrial release program. It was awarded $632,000 by the Judicial Council of California (JCC) to work on pretrial release.

Many jails have been releasing individuals before trials, as there is no space in jails to keep them. Overcrowding has become an even more pressing issue during COVID-19 as it puts inmates and staff at risk. The pretrial program is working to keep people safe while providing an alternative to keeping individuals in jail while awaiting trial.

TRACKtech is a platform designed to help officers with pretrial individuals as well as those on probation and parole. With the TRACKphone, officers are able to remotely check-in with individuals via bio-metric identification and video conferencing. This allows for them to monitor an individual’s location and make sure they are compliant. Individuals also are sent calendar reminders for court dates, to help ensure they show up. This reduces technical violations and helps keep the individual responsible for appearing in court, while remaining out of prison. Pretrial release is a prevalent issue that TRACKtech can help solve by allowing officers and courts to be in contact with the individual and still monitor their location. Our products provide an alternative to people being out on release while awaiting trial, instead of overpopulating jails.

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Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

Michigan State University elaborates in an article on how the national Stepping Up Initiative is helping to reduce the number of people in jails that are suffering from mental illnesses. The Stepping Up Initiative is led by the Council of State Governments, the National Association of Counties and the American Psychiatric Foundation. It was created to help counties redirect individuals with mental illnesses to treatment centers to receive the care they need and reduce jail populations. Currently, more than 500 counties in 43 states are part of the initiative. It is working to keep individuals with mental illnesses out of the justice system and provide them with the help they need.

A professor and her colleague at Michigan State University have been awarded a grant to study how the Stepping Up Initiative works and to determine what techniques can be used for treatment for individuals who suffer from mental illnesses. “Our primary goal is to learn more about how county agencies can work together to reduce the number of mentally ill people in county jails,” said Jennifer Johnson, a C.S. Mott Endowed Professor of Public Health at MSU College of Human Medicine.

Around two-thirds of jail populations have mental health problems and around three-quarters of them also suffer from substance abuse addictions. However, most jails are not equipped with the proper programs or treatment plans to treat those suffering from mental illnesses, as many of these individuals should not be in jail but rather mental health facilities. These individuals find themselves in jail after going off of their medication and acting erratically, leading to arrest. It creates a cycle of individuals being brought in while suffering from mental health issues, being put back on the street and then acting up or committing a crime, landing them back in jail again. This is where Stepping Up comes into play by helping jails find the right fit and facility for those suffering or in need of a mental health facility. This ultimately reduces overcrowding in jails and places people in correct facilities, where they can be treated in the hopes of helping keep them out of jail.

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Jail Overcrowding

According to an article written by the Times News, a former inmate of the Sullivan County Jail in Tennessee filed a $3 million law suit over the conditions of the jail. The inmate recalls how dangerous and overcrowded the jail was, as well as being understaffed and lacking security. He also tells his story of how he was assaulted by a correctional officer in October of 2018. Due to understaffing, lack of security and the jail not being run properly, many inmates suffer from violence from correctional officers and other inmates.

The Sullivan County Jail was built 35 years ago and is designed to accommodate 620 inmates. However, because of overcrowding it has been known to typically hold between 900 and 1,000 inmates. Some inmates do not have beds and sleep on floors in the facility, being supervised by two guards to every 300 or so inmates. The facility has been known to be considered poorly designed, with lots of blind spots, maze like corridors and security cameras that can easily be covered. These issues cause major safety threats and problems to the health of inmates and corrections officers. 

The lawsuit filed by the former inmate listed excessive force, failure to protect an inmate in custody, failure to train and supervise officers, unsafe jail conditions, assault and battery, false improvement and outrageous conduct. Overcrowding in prisons and jails leads to many safety risks and harm on both guards and inmates. It is a problem that needs to be addressed as the number of inmates increases in facilities globally. 

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Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

An article published by the Great Bend Tribune brought attention to a problem that is occurring nationwide. It involves a crisis team looking into jail overcrowding due to the wrong placement and conviction of people with mental health issues. They are not criminals but often jailed for minor offenses which creates overcrowding. Instead of being sent to a mental health treatment center or being provided resources to help with their mental issues, they sit in jail. Some are brought in on minor charges such as disturbing the public or being in places they were asked to leave from. They have not necessarily committed a crime but still are sent to jail until they can be transferred somewhere if need be or released. This problem has been brought to the attention of many in the county of Great Bend and a conference is being held at The Center for Counseling and Consultation to talk about solving the issue of overcrowding related to mental health issues.

Dr. Tom Bauer, MD, a retired internist, and Julie Kramp, executive director at The Center, have brought people together to create a solution for this growing problem. “We’re trying to put together a CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) for Barton and hopefully surrounding counties” says Kramp. With this team they are hoping it will help reduce the estimated 10% of jail populations that are not supposed to be in jail due to mental health issues. The team will take on offenders struggling with mental health issues and properly place them where need be, instead of keeping them in jail and using up limited resources. With this large of a percentage being in jail for the wrong reasons it is causing a backup for release and overcrowding in facilities. Now more than two dozen community leaders are involved in creating the Great Bend/Barton Crisis Intervention Task Force and they are hopeful they will bring about this necessary change to keep people struggling with mental illness out of jail and placing them in the right facility they need. 

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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

The Loveland Reporter-Herald recently published an article about authorizing financing for a jail expansion project in Larimer County. A week ago, the Larimer County commissioners voted to issue $75 million in certificates of participation to finance the expansion of Larimer County Jail. It was the final piece of a three-part measure to address issues of overcrowding and community needs. The county will make annual payments over the next 15 years to pay for the expansion project. 

The committee that oversees the jail expansion is focused on creating more space for inmates in the jail to alleviate overcrowding. They also are concerned with creating better rehabilitative processes and programs surrounding mental health, education and substance abuse. The committee fully agrees that these are important matters to be considered and to put money towards but their priority for now is working on providing more space and dealing with issues of overcrowding. The court systems cannot always keep up with the number of cases it has, so people awaiting trial are stuck in jail until they have their hearing, leading to overcrowding. 

With the $75 million budget for renovations and expansion of the jail, the county can improve the overcrowding issue and add to the facility to house more people. 

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