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Unsentenced inmates draw new scrutiny
Oct 21, 2012 - By Christina George, Staff Writer
175 jailed, no judgment on 122
Officials are reviewing jail statistics in an effort to determine patterns in pre-sentencing of inmates at the Fremont County Detention Center.
In an October report to commissioners, Sheriff Skip Hornecker said he and Fremont County Attorney Brian Varn are pulling numbers "geared to what we think are bigger issues."
Hornecker said the goal is to see if there are other factors playing into the number of individuals in custody who have not been sentenced. He hopes to identify patterns so officials can come up with solutions.
According to Hornecker's report, of the 175 inmates in custody last month, 122 had not been sentenced. Hornecker said he thinks the figures are an "anomaly" for Fremont County, adding that Varn disagrees with that notion.
Hornecker said September averaged 174 inmates, 164 of whom were in jail. Broken down, 134 were adult males, 30 were adult females, nine were in treatment, and one was on home detention.
The latest figure compares to 161 inmates in August.
A year ago, there were 142 inmates at the county jail, with another 20 people housed elsewhere.
The county's lone juvenile offender in custody is the youngest defendant in the Hudson double homicide case.
Hornecker said the teen is at a facility in Sweetwater County. He said the juvenile was previously at an institution in Natrona County but has since been moved for reasons such as daily cost.
Hornecker commended Varn's efforts in looking for alternative solutions for juvenile offenders, thus freeing up space at the county jail for adult inmates.
"It's amazing how well it's working," Hornecker said.
Hornecker told commissioners the only pattern that has surfaced so far is a high number of probation revocations.
He said a few inmates are in custody strictly for probation revocation, but revocations often are attached to a new charge.
Commissioner Keja White-man said it seems probation revocations are not done unless a "pretty serious" offense occurs.
She said some people are concerned that pre-sentencing numbers are high because of "differential treatment between Native Americans and non-natives," requesting that Hornecker conduct a review to prove or disprove the perception.
"We're not seeing it, and it's not popping up in our statistics so far," he said.
There could likely be some correlation based not on race, he said, but rather on finances and the inmate's ability to make bond.
He reiterated that the only pattern found so far is the number of probation revocations.
County commission chairman Doug Thompson asked if part of the disparity could have to do with offenders' connections to the area and the "cloudy" situation with jurisdiction of the reservation. He added that jurisdiction issues also could affect offenders who are from out of state.
Hornecker said county authorities have a good relationship with tribal courts, so he did not think jurisdiction was a factor locally.
"I don't see it in the day-to-day process," he said.
Hornecker said a judge typically considers two issues when setting bond: if the individual is a danger to the community and whether the person will return to the county's jurisdiction once released.
Hornecker estimates that his report will be completed in December.