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Question: Is the jail population controllable?

Updated: Jul 14, 2022

One of the issues currently facing our community is the growing jail population. The current jail facility has three operating housing pods, which house the majority of the secure jail population. There is a 4th pod that is built, but unfinished and therefore not usable space. Part of the discussion within the Eau Claire County Sheriff's Office and in the community is whether finishing the 4th pod would accommodate a rising jail population.

Short Answer: Not by the Sheriff alone AND not with the current community resources that are in place.

- It takes the entire criminal justice system AND the community to "control" it.

There are many factors that could INCREASE the jail population. For example:

  • New laws being passed that add or modify the definition of a crime

  • Fluctuations in an arresting officer's (city or county) arrest decision

  • Mandatory minimum sentences for certain crimes

  • Changes to cash bond requirements for new crimes

There are also many factors that could REDUCE the jail population. For example:

  • Changes in the number and/or types of acts that are considered criminal

  • Fluctuations in an arresting officer's (city or county) arrest decision

  • Not sentencing people to jail for minor crimes

  • Discontinuing putting people on probation who have shown to be unsuccessful with past periods of probation

  • Access to community and transitional resources and programming (i.e. financial management, treatment for addiction or mental health concerns, job skill training, etc.)

The majority of these factors are not able to be altered by the Sheriff, but are dependent on sentencing in the court system, probation holds/violations, and crimes being committed/arrests being made. Likewise, once people are sentenced, the Sheriff has no control over how long they are in the facility, even if the facility is full. Modifications to these types of factors will require diligent work and communication with our local court systems and local and state leaders.

In the shorter term:

- The number one thing that we can do: is actually attack (it's an "aggressive" word...I know, but accurately describes what we need to do) the reasons WHY people commit crimes AND help them overcome these reasons.

- People with criminal histories face huge barriers to employment, housing, health care, and education. Additionally, consider the exponential challenges of living with mental health and addiction issues.

The Tough Conversation: What does the future hold?

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