Overcrowding isn't new at the Douglas County Jail, Sheriff Loren Anderson said, but a recent increase in the number of female prisoners prompted the sheriff to take action to alleviate the overall problem.
The county commission on Monday approved spending $20,000 to pay other counties to take prisoners from Douglas County. Currently, Franklin County is housing five Douglas County inmates, and Anderson is checking with other counties to see if additional inmates can be moved. Franklin County is charging Douglas County $30 a day per inmate to house the prisoners.
Anderson said that past overcrowding was handled by allowing male prisoners into the jail's "day area," a large, confined space without separate cells. But such an area does not exist where the female prisoners are held, he said.
THE COUNTY'S jail contains space for only five female prisoners, Anderson said, and eight female inmates were jailed when the decision was made to move some of them to Franklin County.
"We couldn't get by. We had to do something," he said. "When I addressed that (the female prisoners), I thought, `We've been getting by here, and it looks like (we're) not going to get lesser numbers, so we might as well address the whole thing uniformly.'"
Jail statistics bear out Anderson's assessment. From Jan. 1 through Oct. 17, the jail has exceeded its 50-inmate capacity on 198 days. The jail has held 50 prisoners on nine days and has been at less than capacity on 83 days.
Since July 25, the jail has exceeded its capacity on all but two days.
THE AVERAGE monthly prisoner count has exceeded capacity each month of 1990, except in June and July. The worst overcrowding occurred on Aug. 18 and Aug. 19, when 68 prisoners were housed in the jail. The fewest amount of inmates came July 5 when 32 prisoners were incarcerated. The jail has held 60 or more prisoners on 41 separate occasions, and it housed 67 inmates on Monday.
Last year the county averaged 303 bookings a month into the jail, and this year's average is 305 bookings. But these numbers are difficult to compare because not all bookings lead to extended jail time, Anderson said.
The majority of the inmates at the jail were involved in the court process, Anderson said, and fewer than 25 percent of the inmates were serving a sentence. He suggested that the increase in inmates was attributed to the county's population growth and the influx of college students during the school year.
ANDERSON said he was pleased by the commission's funding and will work with Commission Chairman Louie McElhaney and the district court to develop some long-term solutions to the overcrowding problem.
Some long-term suggestions were discussed at Monday's meeting. Anderson mentioned the possibility of a minimum security center that would house offenders involved in lesser crimes. For example, the county this year has averaged 10 inmates a month who are in a work-release program. These inmates are housed at the jail but are released to go to work.
He added that electronic monitoring of prisoners, which serves a house-arrest function, is another possibility. The courts determine which prisoners qualify for house arrest, Anderson said.