Acknowledging that the process may take time, Director of Community Corrections Annie Grevas chaired the first meeting of the Committee to Reduce Jail Population. The Saline County Commission organized stakeholders and interested citizens to offer insights on a variety of criminal justice issues.
Jail Administrator, Captain Brett Melander said that as of today, 256 individuals are being held by the Saline County Sheriff’s Office. Of these, 172 are physically housed at the Saline County Jail while 84 are housed at jails outside of Saline County—often at a cost of $30/day. The jail has 52 staff members; but, turnover is a concern. Currently, there are 50 staff members and three individuals are completing a 2½ month training program.
Melander said that in 2015, 77% of the jail’s population was awaiting trial while 23% were serving sentences. That data shows:
• 71% of the jail population was from Saline County
• 20% of the jail population was from surrounding counties
• 5% of the jail population was from out of state
County Attorney Ellen Mitchell said that State mandated sentences have an impact. Some driving-under-the influence and domestic battery crimes are felonies, but instead of serving time in a State prison, the State is requiring those convicted to serve mandatory amounts of time in the County jail.
Mitchell said that years ago, extremely violent crimes were rare in Saline County. Through May, she and her staff will be prosecuting seven individuals charged with murder. Mitchell noted a dramatic increase in the use of methamphetamines; she said this drives non-violent crime, such as theft and forgery.
Mitchell said one day, the jail held 243 inmates who had 1,508 charges. When she and the Sheriff Office staff looked at all of the offenses those 243 inmates had been charged with over previous and current arrests, their criminal history showed 10,671 charges.
Grevas said that she wants to strengthen services provided during jail and after release. She cited Drug Court as a program that costs very little money but has reduced recidivism among it graduates.
Michelle Martin, Director of Catholic Charities, said her agency is looking at ways to give those who are released from jail with a steady place to stay. Rick Bues said his goal for this committee is to “figure out ways to keep people out of the system”.
In addition, two graduates of Drug Court shared their thoughts on criminal justice from the perspective of those who have successfully overcome addiction.
The Committee to Reduce the Jail Population will meet the third Wednesday of every month, at Noon in the Department of Community Corrections. The meetings are open to the public.
Story by: Karen Shade for KSAL News
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