BROWARD COUNTY'S JAIL Population Management Study

By Mann, Karen; Gulick, Kristina et al. | American Jails, January/February 2012 | Go to article overview

BROWARD COUNTY'S JAIL Population Management Study

Mann, Karen, Gulick, Kristina, Blomberg, Tom, Bales, William, Piquero, Alex, American Jails

IN AUGUST 2009. THE BROWARD SHERIFF'S OFFICE IN FT. LAUDERDALE, Florida, partnered with Florida State University's College of Criminology and Criminal Justice and its Center for Criminology and Public Policy Research to conduct research that would assist the sheriff's office in planning and preparing for the future. The research would examine three key elements:

* A 1 0-year jail population forecast for the county's jail population.

* A cost-benefit analysis for jail alternatives compared to incarceration.

* The determination of the level of predictive accuracy and validation of the Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions risk assessment tool used to inform the pretrial release decision-making process.

Why are these important? Because building and operating a jail is a costly pursuit and effective alternatives must be found. The challenges associated with planning and operating a jail system with cost-effective practices and policies while simultaneously maintaining public safety are daunting. The Broward Sheriff's Office has reduced pretrial jail stays by implementing a risk assessment screening tool and by developing a continuum of jail alternatives such as day reporting and reentry, probation, drug court, pretrial services, and others.

One indication of the impact of changes in policies and practices was the closure of one jail in October 2009. Deferring the construction of a new jail and closing another has saved taxpayers millions of dollars. In Broward County, 25 cents of every local tax dollar is dedicated to the operation and maintenance of jails. Findings from the research discussed in this article provide evidence that the agency is on the right track with responsible, cost-effective policies and practices.

According to correctional population data provided by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, between 1980 and 2009 there was only one year in which the U.S. jail population decreased- between 2008 and 2009 (from 4,244,046 to 4,203,967). In 1980, the U.S. jail population was 182,288; by 2009, it had increased to 760,400 (317 percent).

According to the Urban Institute, U.S. jails process an estimated 12 million admissions and releases each year. More than 80 percent are incarcerated for less than one month (Solomon, Osborne, LoBuglio, Mellow, & Mukamal, 2008). Solomon and colleagues (2008) estimate that 12 million individuals entering and leaving the country's jails annually amounts to approximately 34,000 individuals daily and 230,000 weekly. The authors point out that in three weeks, this country's jails process as many individuals as the country's prisons do in an entire year (Solomon et al., 2008).

Jail capacity is not the only factor that has changed over the past few decades. Out of necessity, the functions of jails have evolved from basic custody and control to include a plethora of tasks and services that jails are not always equipped to address. Individuals who cycle in and out of jails present a variety of challenges for administrators and staff. Many detainees are unstable and are experiencing personal crises such as unemployment, emotional instability, homelessness, and mental health issues; others present with problems of language barriers and developmental issues. Today, jail administrators and personnel must:

* Be equipped to process arrestees in a timely manner.

* Conduct risk assessments for appropriate pretrial release decisions.

* Conduct needs assessments for appropriate placement decisions.

* Provide other services, including the diagnosis and treatment of mental health issues, substance abuse problems, and other physical health ailments and diseases such as AIDS/HIV and hepatitis.

Also, the Federal government often calls upon jails to serve as holding facilities for individuals with irnmigration issues. More recently, the operational directives for jail acbministrators have expanded to provide services to improve transition from confinement to the community. …

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