Despite expressing concerns about the reluctance to release some nonviolent offenders, U.S. District Judge James Carr kept in place a 2014 order maintaining the maximum inmate population of the Lucas County jail.
A nearly two-hour hearing was held Tuesday by Judge Carr in response to a recommendation from the court-appointed attorney charged with monitoring the population level at the county jail.
Timothy Doyle, a Detroit-area lawyer and special master for the jail, said in the report that a court review was appropriate to determine the progress of strategies that have been implemented as part of a $1.75 million grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to reduce the number of pretrial inmates in the facility.
Among the concerns Mr. Doyle cited is the effectiveness of the “public safety assessment” judges use to help decide whether defendants should stay in jail or be released on bond while their cases proceed through the courts.
The county corrections center, which has been under the supervision of the federal court for nearly 40 years, was ordered in November, 2014, by Judge Carr to set the maximum jail population at 403 and to make progress to reduce the number to 369.
According to Mr. Doyle’s report, the average jail population in 2016 was 397 inmates.
Aneel Chablani, a lawyer with Advocates for Basic Legal Equality Inc., told Judge Carr the jail population exceeded 403 on 25 days in the last four months of 2016 and had recently been as high as 421.
Mr. Chablani said on one occasion, 29 beds in the jail were not available to house inmates because of maintenance issues. He said people are held for long periods in the jail’s booking area, where conditions are crowded and unsanitary.
He said problems with overcrowding still exist despite the implementation of the public safety assessment and other programs.
Attorney Fritz Byers, who represents the county commissioners, said the public safety assessment tool hasn’t solved jail overcrowding but has been an effective tool to help judges make better decisions for releasing prisoners.
Contact Mark Reiter at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6199.
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