Efforts begin to reduce Pima County Jail population

Efforts begin to reduce Pima County Jail population

PIMA COUNTY, AZ ( Tucson News Now) - Efforts are underway to reduce Pima County's jail population.

Over the next two years, Pima County plans to reduce its jail population by 18 percent, close to 400 inmates.

The Pima County Jail has been near full capacity for the last few years, with an average of 2,136 inmates per day in 2014 alone.

Full capacity is 2,377 inmates.

Roughly 80 percent of jail inmates are in pretrial status for reasons such as failing to appear in court, misdemeanor charges like shoplifting and DUIs, as well as lower-level felony charges, such as possession of drugs or criminal damage.

Annual jail costs average nearly $66 million a year.

Pima County is receiving $1.5 million over the next two years to achieve their goal, prompting immediate changes.

The courts are already beefing up their auto notification system. letting people know by phone, email and even text that they need to appear in court.

Another big part of this program is screening people soon after they're arrested to see if they can be diverted to other programs in the community, instead of having them sit in jail, wasting taxpayer dollars.

Some inmates could also soon be doing time for non-violent misdemeanors from home with monitoring systems, instead of a jail cell.

"This is their first time getting a DUI, instead of sitting in jail because that really isn't the best time for them, maybe they should go into programs instead," said Terrance Cheung, program manager for the MacArthur Foundation Justice & Safety Challenges. "It's really going to be able to change the way we think about jails and making sure that the people who are in jail should be in jail and the ones who aren't are not in jail."

The courts will also hold a warrant resolution day on Saturday, June 11 so people with warrants can go see a judge and avoid a jail cell.

Anyone in the community is invited to hear about these changes, as well as apply to be part of a community collaborative group at a meeting Wednesday afternoon.

The meeting is from 3 to 5 p.m. at the YWCA, located at 525 N. Bonita Avenue,

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