Jail Overcrowding Common Problem For Several Counties

By: Parrish Alleman Email
By: Parrish Alleman Email

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Monday, April 22, 2013

The Harvey County Sheriff's office reveals the reasons the jail's population just keeps growing and other jails are seeing the same problem.

The Sedgwick County Jail has been over capacity for years and although the officers in charge say they can't pinpoint why exactly the number of inmates keep growing, they and the Harvey County Sheriff have come up with a few possibilities.

The Harvey and Sedgwick County Jails aren't exactly the same size. Harvey county is built to house 130 inmates, Sedgwick county has 1122 beds. But both jails need more room.

"Right now we are seeing an uptick and the numbers are definitely going up as far as our population,” Sedgwick county Undersheriff Danny Bardezbain said.

"It's a safety risk not only for the inmates but for my employees it's just too risky and we would definitely have to farm them out,” Harvey county Sheriff T. Walton said.

So what's causing the overcrowding in these county jails? Both men say for some inmates, it's as simple as a tough economy.

"People don't have the money to make their bail or bond so they're sitting here,” Undersheriff Bardezbain said.

Another factor is stricter laws. Take DUI's for example, recently the laws changed. Not only do convicted drunk drivers spend more time behind bars but the law changed where they serve time as well.

"Instead of going to state prison, you'll do your time in the county jail,” Sheriff Walton said.

"The laws change to protect people, but on the back end what people don't realize is OK now you're going to put these people in jail well that causes population to go up,” Undersheriff Bardezbain said.

In order to solve their overcrowding problem, the two sheriff's offices say there's two simple solutions but neither is likely to happen. Either people need to stop committing crimes or the county jails need to make more room.

"Well the only way you're going to do that is build more jails and that costs money. Yeah there's no plans to expand the jail, I can tell you that right now. With the economy the way it is there's no way the county commissioners will put that burden on the back of the tax payers because it's bad enough,” Undersheriff Bardezbain said.

Sedgwick county jail is over capacity by a few hundred inmates. Those people are sent to other counties to be housed. Harvey county has never had to send inmates elsewhere but the sheriff says they're just a few extra inmates away from being forced to for the first time.

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