CALDWELL -- For years, Canyon County Jail officials have said they don't have enough space for inmates. Bond measures to build a new jail have failed three times.
Sheriff Kieran Donahue says things are getting worse at the jail and has been vocal in his opinion that a new jail is the only option for maintaining public safety. Donahue says limited bed space currently creates the need to release inmates on an almost daily basis.
KTVB was granted access to the people who make those decisions each day as they went through the process of looking at who to release. To see how the decisions are made, we followed the process from the early morning until an inmate was released in late afternoon. We also looked at the numbers to see how close the jail is to capacity each day.
How crowded is the jail?
At KTVB's request, Canyon County provided a breakdown of the numbers for male and female inmates each day to see how much over or under they are when compared to capacity and target population.
The target population for men in the Dale Haile Detention Center is 188; at maximum, the facility can house 214 men. The target population for women is 53; at maximum, the facility can house 62 women. With a federal judge's order that came as the result of an ACLU lawsuit, Canyon County can not go over their maximum numbers.
Looking at 2012 and 2013, of the 731 total days, the jail was over it's ideal target numbers 95-percent of the time and over maximum capacity roughly 15-percent of the time. Most of those days, the female numbers were the numbers too high.
7:30 a.m. - Canyon County Jail
Most inmates are still in bed, but Lieutenant Tami Faulhaber is already making decisions about the men and women in the Canyon County Jail. She looks through the list of people who've come into the jail in the last 24 hours and looks for people who might be candidates to leave early from a sentence, or on a plea deal, or alternative programming, to make a little more room in the jail.
It's very counterintuitive to be a cop that wants to put people in jail, but my job every morning is to find who I have to let out, Faulhaber said.
On this particular Thursday, the jail isn't at maximum capacity, but numbers were close to the target number. Faulhaber is looking at ten new arrests. She starts by looking for low-level, non-violent charges.
A lot of these today are pretty hefty: Kidnapping, injury to a child, domestic violence. She won't consider them to ask prosecutors about.
A little too dangerous. There's a victim out there. We want them to stay in jail if we can keep them in jail, Faulhaber said.
Faulhaber finds one that might work: A man arrested for not showing up to court to answer for misdemeanor traffic issues.
This gentleman, his charges are relatively minor. It's failure to appear for driving without privileges and insurance, Faulhaber said. I'll send it over to the prosecuting attorney's office and ask them to do what's called a faster track.
She sends an email off to prosecutors to see if they might start a deal with the man.
They probably will just because his charges are such that we've got other people that need to be here, Faulhaber said.
8:30 a.m. - Canyon County Prosecutor's Office
An hour after Faulhaber started looking through the list, her email about new arrest's and the man who might be a candidate for a deal is with Deputy Prosecutor Kimberlee Bratcher.
We're just looking at trying to get people through the system, keep their due process rights and not have anybody unnecessarily in jail, Bratcher said.
She looks at the man's case the jail suggested, checks his criminal history and other factors, and agrees he's a good candidate for release through a plea deal.
So I'm just going to send over a quick offer to the faster track team, and then they'll give it to him at the jail, Bratcher said.
The prosecutor is offering the man this deal: He pleads guilty today to the failure to appear and driving without privileges charges, she'll drop the insurance charge. Also, instead of potentially facing months in jail and thousands in fines plus probation, he'd just get a $300 fine and two days in jail, which he's already served, so he'll get out on time served.
That deal is hand carried to the man, and he has around four hours to make a decision.
9:30 a.m. - Canyon County Sheriff's Office
While we wait to see if he takes the deal, we check in with the sheriff.
You get to the point of who's getting out today? Donahue said. What is the potential for them to do damage or do some harm to someone else?
He agrees with the system of expediting some of these cases and not having low-level offenders sitting in jail, but he says with overcrowding issues, he's watching some days where they're looking at more than misdemeanor driving violations.
My fear is that we're getting to those higher level offenses. So crimes against persons. Aggravated battery, aggravated assault, robbery. Those types of things. Where we start to move into those types of inmates, it's very concerning to be putting those type of people out on the street, Donahue said.
That's why he believes the county needs a new jail, so judges will have more options and not be locked in by the current bed numbers if jail time is what they want to give an offender.
1:30 p.m. - A Canyon County Courtroom
In the afternoon, the man we've been following is in court with the offer. He appears via video from the jail.
We would recommend a $300 fine and two days with credit for time served and he be released today, the prosecutor tells the judge.
The man says he'd like to take the deal, and then we wait to hear if the judge, the ultimate decider of who gets out of jail, says yes.
The judge accepts the deal, and the inmate get out of jail as soon as he's processed.
You've done the jail time and there is no probation, the judge says.
2:30 p.m. - Canyon County Courthouse Courtyard
While the inmate is being processed, we meet up with a public defender to talk about the type of deals we're seeing.
Typically, most people want to get out of jail, so they may be more willing to plead guilty to something instead of fighting it when you're sitting in jail, Aaron Bazzoli, public defender, said. Ultimately the decision whether to serve jail time is the client's. We try to advise them as best we can as to their options for success or trial or what's their best legal outcome.
He says Canyon County clients are more likely to get these deals than perhaps in other counties. While he says that's a valuable tool for defenders, he also thinks a new jail and expanded system in the county overall, is much needed.
The system of overcrowding rushes everyone. It rushes the jailers, it rushes the judge, it rushes the prosecutor, it rushes us, Bazzoli said.
3:30 p.m. - Canyon County Jail
Two hours after his court appearance, the man we've been following is getting out of jail. So after eight hours of multiple people working on the one case, this one man is leaving space for someone the county considers a higher-risk to come in.
We don't just get to walk through the jail and say, you get to go, you get to go, you get to go. You've seen it. There's a process and it's burdensome. :21 Donahue said.
There are no formal plans to run a bond for a new jail. The county commissioners most recently began considering adding onto the current jail instead of building a new one, though no decision has been made.
Question from viewers: Fundamentally, are too many people incarcerated?
A question KTVB has been getting from a lot of people on stories of jail overcrowding is: Why are we as a society putting so many people in jail; is the solution changing the sentencing laws?
Below, you can see responses to those questions from the sheriff, Lieutenant Faulhaber, and the public defender. To watch it on the app, go to the video tab.