After a contentious first three months of the year, relations between county commissioners and new sheriff Ruben Marté’s office have settled into a routine update from the chief deputy sheriff at county commissioner meetings.
At the start of Wednesday’s county commissioner meeting, chief deputy sheriff Phil Parker offered an update on the current status of the county jail facility.
Parker began this Wednesday’s update by highlighting the jail population, which currently stands at 192 inmates, as of June 13.
It’s the same number Parker reported in the last part of April, when he briefed commissioners on the relatively small influx of people during Little 500 weekend (April 21–23). At the start of the weekend, the jail population was 192, Parker said. By the end of the weekend, it had grown to 212. About that increase Parker said at the time: “Our jail population only went up by 20 people.”
The recent span of relatively stable population numbers was chalked up by Parker to efficient collaboration between the courts, prosecutors, and the jail staff in processing and releasing prisoners. In the past 48 hours, there have been 17 bookings balanced out exactly by 17 releases, Parker said.
Parker gave the breakdown of types of charges: 27 prisoners facing misdemeanor charges and 160 facing felony charges. The remaining five inmates are in Monroe County’s jail under various kinds of holds, Parker said.
Parker told commissioners that the number of severely mentally ill residents has decreased from 43 to 34. About that decrease, Parker said, “I want to reiterate, that is an awful lot of work and communication with the judges, the prosecutor, jail commander [Kyle] Gibbons, his staff.”
According to Parker, two mentally ill inmates had been transferred to dedicated mental health facilities where they can receive appropriate treatment.
Parker also updated commissioners on the effort to get the jail into a clean and sanitary condition. The refurbishing of the first-story flooring is now complete. About the importance of getting that area cleaned up, Parker said, “That’s a really big deal. That first floor is where everybody comes in, that’s where it all starts.”
Parker also said all inmates have now received new jumpsuits, T-shirts, and other clothing items. The old jumpsuits were routinely laundered, but they were so well-worn that they gave a disheveled appearance. The jail-issued clothing had always been clean, Parker said, adding, “but now it looks clean, too.”
It’s male inmate worker crews that are doing the cleaning, sanitizing and painting work. To complement that program, Parker told commissioners a female inmate worker program had been started. It’s a gardening project that involves some standing flower planters in the outdoor rec area.
Parker’s Wednesday morning update came after a Tuesday night county council meeting when councilors approved some minor revisions to the resolution they had previously adopted establishing the justice fiscal advisory committee (JFAC).
The creation of the JFAC came after county commissioners in the third week of April suspended meetings of the full community justice response committee (CJRC).
The county commissioners had established the CJRC—with evolving membership, including some county councilors, judges, the sheriff, the public defender and the county prosecutor—to provide advice on how to respond to the work of two consultants. The consultants delivered their studies of Monroe County’s criminal justice system in June 2021.
The Monroe County jail is described as “failing” in one of the consultant reports.
The revisions to the JFAC resolution were discussed at the JFAC’s first meeting, on June 5. Attending that meeting were just the three full JFAC members—county councilors Jennifer Crossley, Kate Wiltz, and Peter Iversen.
One revision clarified that members described as “ex officio” just meant “non voting.” Another revision made explicit that nonvoting JFAC members could appear in person, remotely via Zoom, or by proxy.
The JFAC is set to meet for a second time on June 29 at 4:30 p.m.