GREAT FALLS – On July 23rd the Cascade County Detention Center was housing 531 inmates but the facility was designed to hold 360 inmates.
At that time, Sheriff Bob Edwards sent a memorandum stating they would not accept non-violent misdemeanor warrants and people charged with non-violent misdemeanors.
“Right now we are at 431 inmates, which is very comfortable for us. It has come a long way from the 500. It is more manageable and it is more controllable,” Edwards said on Wednesday.
Edwards says one of his biggest concerns right now is they still have 179 pre-trial felonies in the jail.
These men and women are taking up the majority of the space in the county side of the detention center.
“On the county jail side we technically have 210 beds so really, 180 of those are to pretrial felonies. We have to leave some for local needs,” Edwards said.
Edwards says all of the law enforcement agencies in the area have been very cooperative and have been selective on who they are bringing to the jail.
Some members of the public believe many criminals are not being taken to jail due to the overcrowding.
“It is my understanding that folks are saying they are going to take the law into their own hands. We can’t have vigilante justice, it does not work. That will put these folks in a bind and they will go to jail,” Edwards said.
Edwards says the public needs to let the law enforcement handle the situations where people need to go to the jail.
One reason for people being back on the streets is because they may have posted bond.
“Everybody has to the right to bond, there are a few offenses that require zero bond, but that is very few,” Edwards said.
Edwards says when a bond is set it has to be reasonable in relation to the crime the person is charged with.
“When someone has a bond, they have a right to bond out of jail. Unfortunately, some of these folks that bond out will actually go and re-offend. It is a common occurrence,” Edwards said.
These offenders will go back to jail on their new charges if they are caught, and will most likely stay in jail for the time being.
Edwards says since the memorandum has been in place, no law enforcement agency has been turned away from bringing someone to the jail.
He stressed that if someone needs to be in jail, they will be in jail.
“Do not be going around thinking you can do whatever you want. Just the other day I heard a call come over the radio, I told my dispatch to tell the city to bring them up. I could hear what was going on so if you can arrest him – arrest him, get him off the street,” Edwards said.
Edwards hopes to have another meeting with the judges and attorneys to discuss rescinding the memorandum.
Edwards would like to make it so if the jail reaches a certain number, the memorandum will go back into effect.
“The jail is safer, my staff is safer, and the inmates are safer, we are at a good place at this point,” Edwards said.
Reporting by Margaret DeMarco for MTN News
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