Originally published on September 22, 2019 11:15 pm
A new report ranks Kentucky 9th in the nation for the rate at which counties hold residents in local jails. The state-by-state analysis aims to provide a more comprehensive picture of the effect local jails have. The report was produced by The Prison Policy Initiative, a non-profit group focused on criminal justice reform.
The group analyzed results of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which compiles data on the health of individuals who have been arrested.
Wanda Bertram, a spokesperson for the initiative, said the group’s research implies a correlation between high rates of jailing in a county, and that same area not having the resources to deal with health problems or economic inequality.
“I think of it as a serious injustice when someone with a serious health issue ends up not in treatment or care but in jail instead.”
Bertram said it’s the responsibility of counties and states to provide resources for things like healthcare and affordable housing.
She said one way to reduce the rate of jailing starts with the first interaction most people have before entering the criminal justice system.
“Police are not required to put every person who’s having a health crisis, including a drug crisis, in jail. Counties can change their policies so that police are at greater liberty to issue citations instead of arrests.”
Indiana is ranked the 15th highest state for unique jail admissions per 100,000 residents, and Tennessee is 19th.
The bail system is meant to ensure an individual appears in court after he or she is charged with a crime and to promote public safety. But some research shows requiring cash bail keeps many individuals locked up simply because they can't afford to pay, and that it does not make society safer.
But most counties aren’t properly equipped to treat those people while they’re in custody. The problem is especially big in Indiana, where many jails are housing far more inmates than they are supposed to.