Most of the inmates crammed into the Denver County Jail are accused of robbery, burglary, selling drugs, and even violent assaults, reports the Denver Post. Relatively few of them are the drunken drivers and petty drug users whom people often associate with county jail. A Post analysis of jail records on a recent typical day shows 60 percent of the inmates were awaiting trial on felony charges. Of those, at least a quarter were accused of violent felonies. The majority of pretrial inmates face nonviolent felony charges, with 40 percent of them accused of drug-only crimes. The vast majority of those inmates have prior arrests as well. And not just for drugs. Only 9.7 percent of inmates were awaiting trial on misdemeanor offenses.
Denver voters will decide May 3 whether the city should build a $378 million jail and justice center. Opponents argue that the jail population could be reduced through diversionary programs and more drug and mental-health treatment. But the Post analysis reveals that most of the inmates awaiting trial are habitual offenders, and many are accused of serious crimes. A review of violent felons in the jail, based on an examination of the inmate’s most serious alleged offense, shows: 37 people being held on murder charges; 26 for sexual assault of a child; 44 for robbery; 85 for assault; 15 for sexual assault; and 13 for kidnapping. “The people in the jail really deserve to be there,” said Presiding Denver County Judge Andrew S. Armatas. Community corrections officials could be monitoring 200 more lower-risk inmates than they are, said one city council member. Denver is moving forward with a misdemeanor drug court, which could divert roughly 90 people from jail into other programs.