Colo. jail may house less inmates amid budget cuts
FORT COLLINS ” Only the most serious offenders would be jailed, and some who commit burglaries and drug offenses would be released after being booked, if a Larimer County plan to deal with budget cuts is approved.
Larimer County officials are waiting for a judge to approve the proposal, which comes as the sheriff’s office budget was slashed by $1.8 million and 18 employees were laid off. Sheriff Jim Alderden said the cuts forced him to close a 32-bed pod because there weren’t enough officers to monitor it. He says sometimes one officer oversees up to 72 inmates.
Jail employees say that has made for a tense environment at the jail, as threats to personnel and violence among inmates increases.
“You can really feel the tension in the building more than ever,” said Deputy Casear De Los Santos. “The stress levels for us have really gone up.”
Alderden, who pitched the new inmate detention plan to the Larimer County Criminal Justice Advisory Committee last month, said officials have no other choice but to let some criminals free.
“I’ve spent over 30 years locking up bad guys, and now I’m setting some of those free,” he said.
Under the plan, homicide and assault suspects would be jailed, as well as suspects who are a threat to the community or crime witnesses. Burglary and drug distribution suspects would be booked and released on bond. Officials said their release could include pretrial supervision.
The jail has a 460-inmate capacity but sometimes the number of people in jail hovers around more than 500, officials said. The jail, built in 1983 with 152 beds, has been expanded twice but voters have recently rejected proposals to make it bigger.
County Commissioner Kathay Rennels said the new jail criteria was formulated after input from law enforcement experts, and officials from community corrections, human services and the judiciary. She said the county’s plan could be a blueprint for other local governments if their budgets also get cut.
When the proposal was discussed last month, other options considered were bonding and sentencing alternatives, such as work-release programs or having some inmates serve time on the weekends.
The county currently has about 12,000 nonviolent offenders serving alternative sentences in the community.
Information from: The Denver Post, http://www.denverpost.com
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