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Davis, Weber counties set maximum jail populations

FARMINGTON — Davis County commissioners have established a maximum operating capacity for the Davis County Jail.

The jail can officially hold 814 inmates, and no more than 175 of them can be "condition-of-probation" inmates.

In Weber County, commissioners are expected to approve an ordinance setting the capacity at 986 inmates with no more than 115 as condition-of-probation inmates.

Condition-of-probation inmates are those sentenced to prison by a judge but serve out their sentences in county jails as a part of their probation.

County officials in Salt Lake, Davis, Weber and Utah counties have a problem with that type of inmate because the state pays a lower than normal rate for them. Even the regular rate isn't sufficient to reimburse Davis County for housing state inmates, says Keith Major, business manager for the Davis County Sheriff's Office.

It costs $75 a day to house an inmate, a rate the federal government pays when it houses its inmates in Davis County. But the state only pays 70 percent of that rate for contract inmates and 50 percent of that rate for condition-of-probation inmates.

That means Davis County residents shoulder that cost, Major said.

"That's why we want to establish a cap," said Bob Yeaman, a chief deputy in the sheriff's office.

The cap allows Yeaman to release an inmate if the jail is at capacity and a 176th condition-of-probation inmate is sent to the jail.

Yeaman said he would release the inmate whose sentence is nearest completion, but he said he doesn't expect to have to use that option much.

If the jail isn't at capacity, it could hold more condition-of-probation inmates, he said.

It's a different story in Weber County, said Undersheriff Kevin McLeod.

The current jail population is 971 inmates, and 215 of them are condition-of-probation inmates.

That could mean inmates with less-serious offenses could be released before their sentences expire.

"It's extremely frustrating," McLeod said, shortly before going to a meeting at the Utah Legislature to discuss condition-of-probation funding. "How do we keep (inmates) if we don't have the resources?"

Without the policy, Yeaman said, an overcrowded jail could lead to a federal consent decree, which occurs when a federal judge takes over management of a jail.

Overcrowded jails in Salt Lake, Utah and Weber counties operated under such decrees in the 1990s, which led to construction of new jails.

e-mail: jdougherty@desnews.com

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