Over 200 inmates at the Oakland County Jail have received sentence reductions after a jail overcrowding emergency forced county officials to reduce the inmates’ sentences, the second time in five months such an emergency prompted the early release of jail inmates.
According to Oakland County Circuit Court Administrator Kevin Oeffner, the formal jail overcrowding emergency was declared on Aug. 8. After that, Chief Circuit Court Judge Nancy J. Grant put together a list of 228 inmates who did not pose a high threat risk to the public and who would be eligible for sentence reductions of between 40 and 45 percent.
Of those inmates, 115 (68 percent) had been convicted of misdemeanor offenses, while 73 (32 percent) had been convicted of felony offenses, Oeffner said. Under state law, the jail has to be brought to 25 inmates below its maximum inmate capacity of 1,520 inmates following a jail overcrowding emergency declaration.
Just shy of half of those 228 inmates’ sentences were reduced by a high enough percentage on Wednesday, Aug. 22 that their release was immediate. It was unclear how long it would take to get the remaining 115 of the inmates released from the Oakland County Jail.
Under state law, a formal jail overcrowding emergency is declared when the jail’s inmate population exceeds capacity for seven consecutive days. Within two weeks of such an emergency being declared, the county is required to do whatever it can within legal means to reduce the jail population to below its maximum capacity.
Until March, the county had for several years kept the jail’s inmate population under its maximum capacity following a spate of nine jail overcrowding emergencies between 2005 and 2007. Thousands of non-violent inmates lodged at the Oakland County Jail had their sentences reduced because of such emergencies during that time period.
Oeffner said a number of factors could have contributed to the second jail overcrowding emergency this year, including a budget cut of over $16 million that prompted a work release program that averaged about 150 participating inmates to be reconfigured into a virtual work release program.
The jail overcrowding emergency in March prompted the early release of 227 inmates who did not pose a high risk to the public.