Monday November 26, 2007
Mayor Jerry Abramson announced today he has appointed a commission to study the causes of the growing inmate population at Metro Corrections and to make recommendations for avoiding a crowding crisis. Multiple local and state agencies have been asked to participate in the panel, called Vision 20/20, which will meet over the next three months before presenting its final report to the mayor.
“We’re not in dire straits yet, but we don’t want to get to that point, either,” Abramson said. “We’ve put together this commission to look for solutions that we can implement now to bring those inmate numbers down while still keeping the community safe.”
Retired circuit court Judge Edmund Karem and retired Supreme Court Justice Martin Johnstone will co-chair Vision 20/20. Representatives from the state corrections department, prosecutors, public defenders, judges and community activists also have been invited to take part. The group will meet for the first time on Thursday, Nov. 29.
“There are so many state and local agencies whose actions directly impact the jail,” said Johnstone. “It’s critical we all work together to find solutions, not just to reduce the jail population, but also to improve the entire system’s efficiency.”
Since 2004, the average daily population of the jail has grown 10 percent. Metro Corrections has 1,919 beds in its buildings, but when the population exceeds that number, administrators set up overflow sleeping areas to accommodate the inmates. The average daily population last month was 2,198 inmates.
During the commission’s first meeting, members will hear the results of a consultant’s study on the jail’s population. A synopsis of David Voorhis’ report released to the city’s criminal justice commission revealed that one factor in the steady growth of the jail’s population is the increase in the average inmate’s stay. In 1999, the average stay was 14 days; by 2007, the average was 22 days.
“Our first priority is to keep the community safe, and that’s not going to change,” said Abramson. “My hope is that the commission will find innovative, cost-effective ways to manage a growing jail population, and perhaps recommend changes in multiple agencies that will streamline the judicial process.”