Adams County

County, cities reach temporary agreement on jail cap

Municipal inmate cap raised to 65

Photo by Tammy Kranz
Thornton police Chief Randy Nelson talks to the media at a press conference May 28 about the Adams County sheriff turning away prisoners. From left, Brighton Chief Clint Blackhurst, Commerce City Chief Troy Smith, and Westminster Chief Lee Birk join Nelson. The cities of The cities of Thornton, Northglenn, Aurora, Commerce City and Federal Heights filed a lawsuit against the sheriff earlier this year. The parties have reached a temporary settlement.
Photo by Pam Wagner
The Adams County Detention Center in Brighton.
Photo
Posted

Adams County and five of its municipalities have reached a temporary agreement regarding the inmate jail cap lawsuit.

The parties have agreed to delay any litigation until May 15, 2015.

The agreement allows for additional municipal inmates — a total of 65 — to be housed at the Adams County Detention Facility. The municipalities agreed to pay the daily fee for any inmate exceeding that cap. Domestic-violence offenders do not count against that cap.

“We are pleased that this temporary agreement will provide additional access for municipal inmates,” said Thornton Mayor Heidi Williams. “This issue has been worked on for years now, and we appreciate the efforts of those who negotiated this resolution.” 

The cities of Thornton, Northglenn, Aurora, Commerce City and Federal Heights filed a joint complaint on Feb. 19 against the Adams County Board of Commissioners and Sheriff Doug Darr for restricting or refusing to house municipal prisoners in the county jail. The board of commissioners includes Eva Henry, Charles Tedesco and Erik Hansen.

The board of commissioners approved a cap restriction on municipal inmates, which was enacted Jan. 1, 2012, to help ease financial constraints at the county jail. The cap was set at 30 and was divided among nine cities: Thornton, eight; Westminster, five; Aurora and Commerce City, four apiece; Northglenn and Brighton, three each; and one each for Federal Heights, Arvada and Bennett.

Darr said with this new agreement, the cities would not have an individual cap. The Sheriff’s Office will email the cities with a daily municipal inmate list, and if the cap has been exceeded, the cities must decide to either release one or more inmates or pay the $45 daily fee for each inmate exceeding the limit. The fees collected go into the Adams County general fund, not the Sheriff’s Office budget, Darr said.

“I really do believe the agreement set a good foundation for our future operations,” he said.

Darr said that because the Sheriff’s Office was able to acquire additional staffing to expand its supervised-release program, the inmate population has decreased.

“It gave us a bit of a relief,” he said.

About 480 people who have not gone to trial yet are part of the supervised-release program, Darr said. However, he said some or many of those people could eventually be sentenced to serve jail time by the court.

The key to reducing inmate population, Darr said, was changing how convicts were sentenced — more people who committed low-level crimes could be put on probation.

The Adams County Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee was formed to find permanent solutions to curb the jail population. As part of the temporary agreement, the parties in the lawsuit agreed to continue with the committee.

“We look forward to a permanent agreement on this issue which will ensure the city of Thornton and its residents receive the jail services they are currently paying for,” Williams said.

Property taxes from residents in Adams County fund the jail operations, which is why many city officials oppose the cap and fee.