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Jefferson County Commissioner reacts to inmate release due to overcrowding, budget cuts

Posted at 6:35 PM, Jan 20, 2020

GOLDEN, Colo. -- Overcrowding and budget cuts led the Jefferson County Sheriff Department to release a number of inmates Sunday night. Officials said they did not need to release anymore inmates Monday, but that does not mean they won't be releasing more as early as Tuesday.

The county warned last year their $16 million shortfall would drastically cut services if voters didn’t approve ballot issue 1A in November, leading to a reduced number of beds and inmates being released, as was the case over the weekend.

“Well, nobody wants to see that. Nobody in Jefferson County wanted it to come to this," said Jefferson County Commissioner Libby Szabo. "Now this decision is the sheriff’s decision. He’s a duly elected person just like I am, accountable to the taxpayers in this county. I might’ve done things a little differently if I had the choice."

The Sheriff Department says they needed to cut $5.5 million from their budget this year due to across-the -board budget cuts for the county. The sheriff chose to cut 42 detention staff members and close down an entire floor of the jail.

That decision cut capacity significantly. A decision Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader isn’t happy about, but is being forced to make.

“My frustration with this process that we have to do this is that it undermines the criminal justice system. It undermines the intentions of a judge,” Shrader said.

Under the reduction plan this year, when the jail population exceeds that capacity by 2%, the jail will begin releasing qualified inmates who have served at least 50% of their sentence.

Szabo told Denver7 they want to look at other ideas, financially-speaking, to prevent the release of inmates before they serve their sentences.

“We’re gonna look at our budget because I don’t want a prisoner set free on my stint as a county commissioner," Szabo said. "I believe that public safety is a core function of our government."

Szabo said she is talking to the sheriff about consolidating part of his department with the county, which could free up some money and help with the cuts.