Media headlines across the country tell the story. In Boulder County, Colorado, a 239-bed jail that holds 500 people some nights reported seven deaths between 2012-2015. In Jackson County Jail in Kansas City, the potential sexual assault of two women inmates by male inmates is rekindling debates about the deteriorating 30-year-old building and its safe operation.
Tennessee’s Bradley County jail notified local law enforcement officials in August that it can no longer accept prisoners, after the Tennessee Corrections Institute cited the jail as overcrowded and understaffed. According to state figures, 30% of that state’s county jails are at more than 90% capacity overall, and jails are at 89% of their total female capacity. In Carroll County, Indiana, temporary “canoe” cots have handled overflow until officials decried the practice. In Bannock County, Idaho, $300,000 a year is being allocated to rent beds from other counties.
Even in county jails where overcrowding is less of an issue, growth in special populations and subpopulations are changing daily operations. The simple county jail of 20 years ago has grown much more complex.