Many county jails are sending inmates to other jurisdictions to serve short-term sentences, a practice called remote jailing, NPR reports. That can make it hard for family members and friends to visit. Unlike state and federal prisons, reserved for more serious offenses, county and city jails hold mostly people awaiting trial or local inmates convicted of minor crimes. Today, remote jailing is commonly practiced in Washington and Texas, and in pockets nationwide, from Illinois and Wisconsin to California.
There are two reasons why: one is to save money. In Washington state, jail beds cost local governments anywhere from $45 to $125 a day. The other reason is to ease overcrowding. Indiana University criminologist Mark Berg says these apparent upsides may be misleading. “I do not think it’s a wise policy to build a greater distance between the inmate and their family,” he says. “Because these distances I think can translate into higher recidivism rates.” Berg co-authored a 2011 study which found that inmates with strong family support were less likely to commit new crimes after release. “Families essentially served as a bridge between a period of incarceration and the community,” Berg said.