Alternatives to a New Jail

March 2005

Denver isn't the only city struggling with jail-overcrowding and decisions over building a new justice center and how to fund it. In Texas, Travis County is facing the same dilemma. Some good suggestions have been made there to alleviate the problem without resorting to a new jail and justice center. Among them:

  • Forbidding officers from arresting anyone for traffic ticket-level offenses. If the legislature doesn't pass such a law, have the Denver County Jail institute an admissions policy that refuses to accept anyone arrested for such an offense.
  • Reduce the time non-violent offenders have to serve on felony and misdemeanor probation, provided they have no significant violations in the first portion of the term. This would free up jail space because there would be fewer probation violators. "Bottom line, shorter, tougher probation works better to actually change lives. Probationers who enter the system on technical violations two years after the offense needlessly take up bed space without any benefit to public safety."
  • Limit probation revocations for "technical violations" of probation conditions, and have Judges stop requiring urinalysis tests as a probation condition in non-drug related cases.
  • Ban consent searches, or searches where an officer asks for permission to search but has no probable cause.
  • Use fines instead of incarceration for vice crimes.

Until some or all of these approaches have been tried, who's to say we need to spend the money on a new jail and justice center?