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Hennepin County looking at new ways to manage jail population

November 29, 2018

The Hennepin County Board received a jail population study Thursday that includes recommendations that could radically change how long inmates are locked up.

Last year, Sheriff Rich Stanek sent letters to the board warning that the jail was reaching capacity and record levels. Retired Hennepin County judges John Stanoch and Lucy Wieland in May accepted the task of examining the jails population over an 18-month period and recommending ways to reduce it.

Commissioners were told that there wasnt a single explanation for the significant increase in jail population for 2017 and the decrease in the summer of 2018. The jails daily population this week is at 682, down from 885 in April 2017.

Instead, four major drivers of jail population were studied: bookings, pretrial release, length of stay and alternatives to detention. The lack of an integrated county criminal justice data system, and different data management systems for the various partners in the justice system, was said to make analysis extremely difficult.

Hennepin County jail stays increased by seven days from 2016 to 2017, resulting in 37 more people being held daily in the jail. Probable cause holds, in which a person is arrested but not yet charged, also were up significantly in 2017.

Some suggested reforms include more electric home monitoring, earlier release before charging, lower bails for booking and release, and shorter stays for minor probation violations.

Hennepin County has two jails in downtown Minneapolis, one at City Hall and the other just across the street. The combined total of beds is 839, but 10 percent of them are reserved for inmates who need be separated from the rest of the population; the actual number of daily beds available is 755.

David Chanen 612-673-4465

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