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Studies

A review of nationwide prison management practices

Jail space is a limited and expensive resource, and while the Sheriff is responsible for managing the detention facility, overall jail usage is dictated by decisions largely outside his control. This Report is premised on the assumption that Jail planning requires an understanding of the system in which it operates. Available beds in any correctional facility tend to become filled — regardless the number added. ‘Build it and they will come.’ The only way to manage limited, and expensive, jail capacity is to understand the system policies and practices that are driving it. 

Macomb County will need to take a ‘Systems Approach’ to successfully address jail overcrowding. Macomb County needs more jail capacity; but without improvements in local system efficiency and effectiveness any new beds will soon be filled. The solution is to implement a System Master Plan. 


Criminal justice system policies and practices drive jail populations. As such, planning for future jail capacity requires identifying the factors that impact the jail and then asking: What measures might be taken to mitigate jail capacity/ growth without compromising community safety? Does the Jail operate within a criminal justice system that can ensure fair and consistent treatment? Does the Jail benefit from a coordinated and efficient adjudication process that can deliver swift justice? Finally, what innovative approaches might be considered to improve outcomes and lower costs? 

This Master Facilities Confinement Study is a systemic criminal justice review commissioned by Montgomery County with the aim of establishing future bedspace requirements for the County’s correctional facilities and pre-release center. While the study fulfills an important requirement for any funding requests from the State of Maryland for future construction of local detention centers, Montgomery County recognizes - and in fact emphasizes - that this study is much more than a means to that end.


Through the means of a comprehensive overview of the County’s Criminal Justice System and its various stakeholders as they currently function, and with past, present and arising trends considered, the project’s major needs assessment component were conducted. Recommendations for further improvements in pre-trial, detention and re-entry services, as well as for community-based alternatives were grounded in available data and evidence-based practices, and resulted from in-depth research and continued communication and collaboration with system practitioners and credentialed experts. These recommendations were made in good faith within the limitations of the data available that are expected to set the stage for the future of the County’s Department of Correction and Rehabilitation, and their impact on the County’s criminal justice operations will span far beyond corrections alone.


To reach its two major goals - conducting a needs assessment resulting in system-wide recommendations, and producing a capital improvement plan to support the seeking of funding for capital projects from the State – the Master Facilities Confinement Study is guided by principles that Montgomery County highlights in its Criminal Justice System. Firstly, jail bedspace demand is not solely a corrections issue; it is a factor affected and defined by the Criminal Justice System at large, as corrections does not function in a vacuum but reflects the outcome of numerous societal components. Additionally, bedspace needs do not stand alone, but must be considered in conjunction with overall offender flow and management. Thus, it follows that bedspace need projections and improvement suggestions must result from coordination and collaboration with numerous criminal justice agencies as well as supportive services and programs, such as those of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Finally, in line with today’s best practices and Montgomery County’s ideology behind criminal justice practices at large, all efforts in the Master Facilities Confinement Study are guided by an underlying philosophy of least restrictive responses to criminal activity, without compromising public safety.

Conditions in county jails that conform to the United States Constitution are a prerequisite for the legitimacy and integrity of the American justice system. Under the Eighth and 14th Amendments, jails have a duty to protect all people who are incarcerated, whether sentenced or pretrial. 

Conditions that fail to meet not only constitutional but also state and department standards for physical security, medical care, mental health care and living environment are unlawful and should not be tolerated. Discriminatory policies and practices and noncompliance with legal standards may further violate the rights of individuals who are incarcerated and give rise to concerns of legal liability.

According to the Prison Policy Initiative, roughly 242,000 people in California are in custody. More than 34% are incarcerated at local jails, accounting for roughly 13% of the nation’s local jail population. For more than 40 years, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California (ACLU SoCal) has worked to ensure that a basic standard of care is provided to people in jail. The ACLU SoCal is the court-ordered monitor of conditions of confinement within all Los Angeles County jail facilities. Through its Jails Project, the ACLU SoCal responds to complaints by individuals who are incarcerated and ensures that court-ordered reforms are implemented. The organization also entered into a partnership with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office to help monitor its jails in 2016. 

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