In a previous Counties by the Numbers article, I looked at the impact the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) had on drug-related felonies and misdemeanors in the state. To review, drug-related convicted felonies fell from an average of 1,900 a quarter prior to JRI to nearly 700 a quarter after JRI. While drug-related convicted misdemeanors jumped from an average of 600 a quarter prior to JRI to 1,900 a quarter after the enactment of JRI. In that article, I speculated that JRI would most certainly have an impact on the numbers of State prisoners participating in both the jail reimbursement and jail contracting programs. Today, we’ll consider jail contracting.
Before we look at the data, let’s take a moment and review what jail reimbursement and jail contracting actually are. Jail reimbursement is a program where the state reimburses counties for housing State prisoners in county jails who were placed there on a condition of probation by a State judge. The code requires the State to fund jail reimbursement at 50 percent of the State daily incarceration rate, although the legislature has yet to fund the program at that level.
Jail contracting is a program where individual county jails contract with the State to house State prisoners in order to alleviate the State prison population. By statute the State contracts with the counties at 70 percent of the State daily incarceration rate. County jails are also eligible for additional State funds provided they offer State-approved treatment programs.
Every day, the Department of Corrections publishes a report on the number of jail contract beds throughout the State. Since early June, UAC has been receiving that report. So what does the report tell us about jail contracting in the age of JRI? Somewhat surprising, the data suggests that JRI has not greatly affected jail contracting. Comparing the funding county to the number of beds filled in a day show that there has been little change to the number of beds used in the jail contracting program throughout the state over the past three months. Chart 1 shows the results.
Over the three-plus months that UAC has been tracking contract bed counts, the total percent filled has gotten as 92 percent and dipped as low as 89 percent. What’s more, when measuring the average bed county for any one given month, the average total percent filled was 90 percent for June, July, August, and September. It appears that JRI has had no impact whatsoever to the numbers participating in the jail contracting program.
What has changed, based on conversations with sheriffs, is the type of prisoners participating in jail contracting. But as of today, reductions in the state corrections system as a result of JRI have been manifest at the state prison and not at the county jails contracting with the state. Looks like my initial speculation that reduced drug related felonies would impact jail contracting has proven false.
If you have a subject you’d like UAC to explore in a future Counties by the Numbers article, please email Arie Van De Graaff at firstname.lastname@example.org