Warren County Jail’s population is estimated to increase to 430 inmates in 13 years if the current rate of incarceration remains unchanged and continues to rise.
It was also noted about one-third of the county’s current jail inmates stay one day or less, while over 70 percent are in jail less than two weeks.
Those figures were presented Tuesday to members of the county Jail Oversight Committee, who met for an information only session with County Technical Assistance Service jail management consultant Jim Hart, who is assessing the jail before possible expansion.
Of the 430 inmates projected in 13 years, 94 will be female and 336 will be male. The numbers were generated using several factors, including the current population in Warren County and the average daily jail population to calculate the possible increase.
Hart made one thing clear about his projected numbers.
“I don’t have a crystal ball,” said Hart.
Hart also offered an overview of the current jail and its issues, which matched what the county already knows: it has an overcrowding issue, the majority of inmates are in jail for misdemeanors, and with a lack of programs for reentry into society, the jail is little more than a warehouse for inmates to serve their time.
While the jail has a capacity of 251, said Hart. It has averaged 284 inmates over the last three years.
“Experts suggest a jail is at its capacity when it reaches approximately 90 percent of its bed space capacity,” said Hart. “For Warren County the target capacity would be 227: 158 male beds and 69 female beds.”
Consideration was given to a renovation adding approximately 100 beds. By Hart’s numbers, that will not be enough.
“If you build it, they will come,” said Hart, who tracked jail population numbers in 18 different counties for 12 months prior to, and 12 months after, new jail construction or jail expansion.
The population increased by an average of 35 percent once construction was complete.
Length of stay for 9,637 Warren County inmates from 2014 to 2016 was also examined. Hart found the majority stayed less than 24 hours.
“We see that 34 percent of the inmate population stays one day or less in custody. Another 39 percent is released within the first 14 days. This reflects a high level of turnover of the inmate population on a regular basis. This short-term stay significantly impacts booking and release operations within the jail.”
According to the report, Warren County Jail is overrun with individuals being held for drugs, probation violations and burglary/theft crimes. During the fiscal years between 2010-11 and 2015-16, 71.1 percent were charged with one of those crimes.
“Comparing Warren County against statewide data reflects the percentage of sentenced misdemeanants in custody is significantly higher in the county,” said Hart.
Hart said the county needs to consider instituting programs to reduce repeat offenders.
Hart made the following recommendations:
• Additional bed space is needed to support the inmate population in Warren County.
• Special-needs housing for mentally ill, suicidal, and medical inmates (both male and female) are needed. The county should target a minimum of 10 percent of the capacity for special needs housing.
• Additional bed space is needed to support an inmate classification system, based on mental health issues, specific needs, violent tendencies, etc.
• It is recommended data regarding lengths of stay in custody, lengths of stay at time of sentencing, time to move through the grand jury, numbers of special needs inmates, etc., be tracked and regularly monitored to identify trends in the inmate population. Due to the current work load, an additional position may be required to monitor and evaluate this data. Further, this information should be regularly (monthly) communicated to the county’s Correction Partnership Committee.
• Any new jail expansion or design should consider podular housing configurations that permit for more control and enhanced lines of site.
• Given no changes to the current practice of housing a significant number of misdemeanant offenders, the proposed jail population increases are significant. The county should consider fostering collaborations with local mental health, substance abuse, job training and placement, and other entities to consider ways of assisting in diverting pretrial offenders from jail into the community and begin providing needed services. Additionally, these collaborations could include working with the jail on developing reentry services for those inmates completing their sentences and preparing to transition back into the community.
Warren County is in the process of reviewing architectural firms for the proposed jail expansion. Hart’s assessment, once finalized, will be given to those companies so they can use the information in generating their proposals to the county.
The final document will be available in a couple weeks.