$1 million grant helps tackle over-incarceration at Ada County Jail

Posted at 5:36 PM, Oct 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-04 19:42:37-04

Ada County is tackling over-incarceration.

Officials are hoping a $1 million grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation will help reduce Ada County Jail's average daily population by 15 percent over the next two years.

For the last six months, the jail has come close to meeting its 1,224 inmate capacity.

"We are at the point that, we are going to have to build a new jail, or figure out ways to reduce our jail population," said Ada County Sheriff Steve Bartlett. 

The grant is helping to do just that -- reduce the number of inmates, and add eight support s taff for case managers and court clerks.

It will also help fund a text notification system to alert folks of upcoming court dates.

"It will reduce the number of bookings and people inside the Ada County Jail because they'll be showing up for court and not receiving a bench warrant for their arrest," Bartlett said. 

Helping those with mental health or substance abuse issues will also be a priority.

"We know, from what's happened around the state and other places, that once this jail gets full, that starts driving criminal justice decisions," said Judge James Cawthon, 4th District Magistrate. 

And with Ada County's population expected to increase to more than 650,000 by 2040, officials say over-incarceration needs to be addressed immediately.

"A certain percentage of that growth, eventually, just by nature of it, will end up being arrested or coming to jail," Bartlett said. "And it doesn't mean we have more criminals coming into our area, it just means we only have 1,224 beds at the Ada County Jail."

The grant awarded to Ada County is part of the foundation's Safety and Justice Challenge -- a $100 million initiative to reduce over-incarceration in the U.S.