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Jails - Contemporary Jails

hold local correctional mega

Fulfilling a multiplicity of functions, modern jails hold accused offenders, either not eligible for bail, or unable to raise bail due to poverty. Jails also hold persons waiting arraignment, trial, conviction, or sentencing. Jails furthermore detain probation, parole, and bail-bond violators and absconders. Jails house inmates for federal and state authorities when prisons are overcrowded. At times, jails may hold the mentally ill pending transfer to mental health facilities. In many jurisdictions, jails temporarily detain juveniles pending transfer to appropriate county or state facilities. Jails, moreover, hold persons wanted by the military or federal authorities and those held in protective custody, for contempt of court, and as material witnesses. Finally, jails hold convicted misdemeanants, usually sentenced to one year or less. Exceptions to this rule include Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, where inmates may serve much longer terms, ranging from one to five years. Also, some states make heavy use of jails for felony as well as misdemeanor sentencing. For example, two-thirds of convicted felons in Minnesota receive jail sentences of one year or less (Frase, p. 479).

National jail surveys define a jail as a locally administered facility authorized to hold convicted persons and those who have been arraigned in court (which usually occurs within seventy-two hours of arrest). This definition thus excludes socalled drunk tanks, police and court lockups, and all state-run penal institutions for short-term offenders (such as state farms, road and forestry camps, and reformatories). Applying this definition, the 1999 Census of Jails reported that there were 3,365 local jails in about three thousand cities and counties (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2000). The vast majority of these jails are county facilities under the control of elected sheriffs or a county corrections agency. Over six hundred municipal jails operate under the control of local corrections departments. At midyear 1999, forty-seven of the nation's jails were privately owned or operated under contracts with local governments in seventeen states (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2000). Six states—Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Vermont—had integrated state-level prisons and jails. This type of arrangement is usually referred to as a "state unified system" and is controlled by the respective state department of correction and/or department of public safety. The Federal Bureau of Prisons operates a system of metropolitan correctional centers (MCCs). These centers house both pretrial detainees and sentenced inmates and are located in Los Angeles, San Diego, Miami, Chicago, Brooklyn, New York, Manhattan, and in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The American Correctional Association (2000) categorizes jails by the number of inmates they hold. As such, jails fall into four categories: small, medium, large, and mega-jails. There are over one hundred mega-jails in the United States. Defined as local correctional institutions with more than one thousand beds, mega-jails are located in the nation's largest metropolitan areas. Florida leads the nation with seventeen mega-jails, followed by Texas with thirteen, California with fifteen, and New York with twelve. There are over 500 large jails, defined as local correctional institutions with 250 to 999 beds. There are over 1,200 medium-sized jails defined as local correctional institutions with 50 to 249 beds. Finally, there are over 1,500 small jails, with 1 to 49 beds, making this institution the most frequent modality of all jails.

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