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.