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GOLDEN — More than 200 inmates at Jefferson County Jail are looking at a longer sentence after Jefferson County Sheriff's Office leaders re-evaluated the sentencing system over the summer and made changes.
The recalculation of the new release dates went into effect on Nov. 1, 2020.
For years, inmates were given set release dates at the beginning of their sentence based on good behavior and on the entirety of their sentence before completion. This system gave inmates a shorter sentence.
Rob Reardon, the division chief of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Detention Facility, said early releases during the pandemic raised concerns and they reached out to several sheriff's offices to see how they calculated jail time and made changes.
"The concept is that individuals should earn time as they serve it," Reardon said.
Chalmers Bradbury's release was set for Dec. 9, 2020, 441 days after he was sentenced to 730 days in jail.
"That day is always in your mind," he said.
Bradbury served time at Jefferson County Jail, attended therapy and courses for his latest DUI, and qualified for the work-release program. He said he felt like he did his time and began making Christmas plans with his two children. But on Dec. 6, 2020, three days before his release date, he found out it was pushed to March 2, 2020, he said.
Reardon said on Oct. 29, inmates were informed about the recalculation of release dates. However, an email on Nov. 17 from Jefferson County released by Bradbury states his release date was Dec. 9, 2020.
Bradbury said he hasn't been written up or disciplined and doesn't understand why the sheriff's office would change the system.
"It's crushing," he said.
Under the new release date, Bradbury will serve an additional 83 days and must continue to pay $70 a day to the jail, which adds up to nearly $6,000.
The changes implemented affect more than 200 inmates. Some inmates are serving time at the jail and others are on a work-release program.
Jails and prisons have become hotbeds for COVID-19 across the U.S. Reardon said they currently have 38 positive cases at the detention center. He added that they are taking all the necessary precautions to keep inmates safe and he doesn't feel inmates are being put at risk by extending their sentence during a pandemic.
"I don't know that this has anything to do with the timing of the pandemic," Reardon said. "It has to do with how we want to hold people accountable."
When asked if the changes were based on finances, he said, "No, it's an offset."
Chalmers disagrees. He said he feels at a loss.
Reardon said inmates must do time for their crimes.