Ada County, ID

Change in Jail Population 18%

Action Areas Community Engagement Courts Pretrial Services Racial Disparities

Last Updated


Ada County joined the Safety and Justice Challenge to better understand its jail population and to implement impactful, data-informed changes across the system to reduce the jail population and disparities.

At the time, there was over-reliance on incarceration for lower-risk, non-violent offenders in the jail. The biggest contributors to the jail population were pretrial detainees, accounting for well over 50 percent of the overall population, as well as length of stay. The average length of stay for low- and low-moderate-risk defendants was 56 days.

This overuse of detention caused disruption to the stability of arrestees’ families and communities, and led to higher re-arrest rates.


Ada County advanced a number of strategies to rethink and redesign its criminal justice system so that it is more fair, just, and equitable for all.



To improve case processing, the county implemented additional “second look” practices through collaborative efforts by the jail population review team, which includes system stakeholders who meet on a regular basis to discuss case types that drive the jail population and determine potential cases for safe release; reducing timelines for pre-sentence investigations; and speeding up the processing of parole violations.



The county expanded its use of evidence-based risk assessments to help judges measure risk to the community. This helped judges make more informed decisions regarding pretrial release, instead of relying solely on a cash bail system.



The county facilitated direct, honest conversations with members of its community about their experiences. It also studied relevant arrest and booking data to understand racial disparities in jails. Moving forward, the county is working to engage with the community to develop effective and sustainable solutions to make the justice system more fair and equitable.



The county created a new text, email and call-based notification system to allow the Ada County Clerk of Courts staff to send alerts to people with upcoming court dates and ultimately, reduce failure to appear rates in court.



The State of Idaho opened a new Behavioral Community Crisis Center in Boise to provide support for people suffering from mental illness or substance use issues, a disproportionately high population in the jail. Ada County continues to work closely with the State of Idaho to ensure that the center will be able to serve as many citizens who need it as possible.


As a result of the strategies above, Ada County has made progress towards its goal of rethinking and redesigning its criminal justice system.

Quartery ADP for Ada County (2016-2024)

18.3% from baseline

More Results

Initially, the county struggled to achieve a meaningful decrease in the jail population. The jail facility was continuously over capacity and was burdened by a large state inmate population. Relentless and rapid local population growth as well as limited resources for pre-arrest support, intervention and diversion were also significant factors.

But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the strategies that were in place as a result of the Safety and Justice Challenge set the county up to respond quickly and meaningfully to the crisis. COVID-19 posed a serious health risk to the community, people being held in the jail, and staff. To reduce unnecessary exposure and transmission in our jail, the county was able to quickly and dramatically reduce the population to allow for proper distancing and quarantine space. Fortunately, the county had strong, collaborative relationships in place and was able to work with partner law enforcement agencies, public defenders, prosecutors, and the Department of Correction to reduce the jail population swiftly while maintaining community safety and protecting public health. The county continues to review its efforts to ensure that they are having the impact desired.

Beyond the jail reduction, the county also improved the Pretrial unit, by expanding the staffing and adopting the new pretrial assessment tool. The Pretrial program helped many avoid a return to jail after being released safely into the community.

For example, one man was charged with a Felony DUI when he was working as a full-time chef. Being released before his trial allowed him to keep working. During his sentencing hearing, the judge told him because he did well on Pretrial, he would not be serving time in prison. The Defendant now owns his own restaurant and food truck, and just recently opened a second location.

Remaining Challenges

Ada County is focused on addressing its remaining challenges in its local justice system.

Rapid local population growth — and corresponding jail population growth that follows — continues to be a challenge. While the county was able to safely reduce the jail population during the pandemic, the difficulties the jail faced pre-pandemic have not gone away. With all jury trials starting up again after being delayed, the county expects there to be some backup with people who have been in the jail long-term, until the courts can catch up. The COVID-19 pandemic did show what was possible with buy-in from law enforcement, prosecutors, and the District Court.

Another challenge will be continuing the system-wide commitment to the reduction of the jail population without the threat of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. The county is developing strategies and collecting data to show partners how crime rates have not gone up as the jail population has decreased, so the work can be sustained after the pandemic.

Overall, the county has learned that meaningful and lasting change is going to be a marathon. Ada County will continue to work towards achieving a more equitable, efficient, and safe system.

Lead Agency

Ada County Sheriff’s Office

Contact Information

Kristen MacLeod
Ada County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Justice Coordinator/Safety + Justice Grant Manager


Ada County Clerk's Office, Idaho 4th Judicial District judges and magistrate judges, Idaho Department of Correction, local law enforcement agencies, Ada County Prosecutor's Office, Ada County Public Defender, Ada County Trial Court Administrator, Ada County Commissioners, Boise City/Ada County Housing Authority, Boise State University, community leaders and service organizations, Idaho Commission of Pardons and Parole, Idaho Department of Health & Welfare, mental health professionals, Pathways of Idaho Community Crisis Center, Idaho Black History Museum, state legislators

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