The Jefferson County Awakening


A few years ago a small group of criminal justice planners in Jefferson County, Colorado noticed the jail seemed to be overflowing with individuals waiting for their case to be heard in court. They decided to start collecting and look at the data to find out how many people actually were in pretrial status and what was keeping them in. What they found after a six-month examination of the jail surprised even them.

Their jail was about 42% pretrial defendants, but that’s not the part that surprised them. What surprised them was why they defendants incarcerated. If a bond amount was set at $200 or less, 28% of defendants did not post. If the bond amount was between $201 and $750, 41% of defendants did not post and when they did post if took on average 6-7 days. Finally, they looked at everything $750 or higher and found that two-thirds of defendants remained in jail and did not come up with the funds to post their bond. The small percentage of individuals that did post a bond of over $750 took 9-10 days to do so.

Among those who did get out of jail, court appearance and public safety was the same no matter the bond amount. These numbers demonstrated the antiquated secured money bail practices in their criminal justice system. Since discovering these findings, they have worked hard to remedy the situation. In the past few months, nine counties in Colorado have begun to implement a validated pretrial risk assessment CPAT.


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