UNF study: Duval County jail 'bursting at seams'

State attorney, sheriff say crime is down because 'right people are in jail'

Florida Department of Law Enforcement's violent crime index for Duval County
Florida Department of Law Enforcement's violent crime index for Duval County

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – While crime in Jacksonville is at the lowest level in 20 years, the number of people in Duval County's jail is the highest it's been in five years, which led criminal justice professors at the University of North Florida to ask why.

A study by professors Michael Hallett and Daniel Pontzer titled "No Peace Dividend for Duval?" notes that while State Attorney Angela Corey is living up to her promise to be tough on crime, the spike in arrests and prosecutions has left the jail "bursting at the seams."

Last year the average jail inmate population in the county county was 3,990. The combined capacity of Duval County's three correctional facilities is 4,100.

"At great expense to taxpayers, warehouse prisons and high incarceration generate chronic recidivism, returning young men from broken homes and isolated ghettos back to the streets with nothing to show for their 'time,'" the report says.

Corey told Channel 4 she was surprised by the study, saying that she disputes some of the statistics used and that she was never asked for any input or reaction before the report was released.

DOCUMENT: No Peace Dividend for Duval?

Corey said her office is making tougher plea offers, and to deal with a backlog of prosecutions, her office has created a new felony division.

"We believe the right people are in jail: violent, repeat offenders," Corey said.

Corey said if anyone wants to point out specific people who don't belong in jail, she'll be happy to listen.

Sheriff John Rutherford also disagrees with the conclusion of the UNF study.  He commends prosecutors and says crime is down precisely because the jails are full.

"If you look at the drop numbers -- of cases where people have been arrested but not prosecuted at all -- that has dropped significantly. I think around 300 percent," Rutherford said. "Angela Corey is prosecuting them aggressively and I think the judges are keeping the right people in jail."

A forum on the results of the UNF study will be held on campus from 7 to 9 p.m. on April 2.