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Convicted Inmates Let Out of Over-crowded Jail

Convicted Inmates Let Out of Over-crowded Jail

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Courtney Orton ReportingOn Monday the Salt Lake County jail reached its limit capacity. Since then, jailers have started to release convicted inmates to make more room.

Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder is trying to find more beds for inmates. For years, the County Jail has controlled overcrowding by tightening the criteria for who gets in, but now they're running out of beds, even though, the county mayor says 135 beds are unused at the county jail and the entire facility at Oxbow is closed.

A year ago, county leaders made a decision to close a housing unit at the Salt Lake County jail with those 135 beds to save money. Years before that, the county saved even more money by closing the Oxbow Jail.

Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder says he plans to make a formal request to the County Council to provide emergency funding to open up the unused space at the county jail. In November, he plans to ask the council about Oxbow Jail.

In May, the Salt Lake County Jail booked, on average, 93 inmates daily, but released 94. Salt Lake District Attorney Lohra Miller says the city is frustrated the jail continues releasing inmates who violate court orders.

The jail officials say it's the only way to regulate jail population.

West Valley City's chief prosecuter believes early releases have already created risks.

Chief Prosecutor Ryan Robinson says, "It's gone beyond people who have committed drug crimes or property crimes, and we are now seeing people who are violent offenders or those who have assaulted a spouse or a domestic violence kind of scenario."

The Sheriff says, for now, the jail is trying hard to release only non-violent offenders. Some released inmates are given electronic ankle monitors. Others are put in special programs outside the jail. Some, though, are simply allowed to go home.

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