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Study: Fewer people jailed in Durham, but time spent in jail is up

Durham County Detention Facility
Ildar Sagdejev (Specious)

A new report finds that the Durham County Sheriff's Department jailed fewer people from 2014 to 2019. At the same time, the amount of time people spent in jail, on average, increased.

About 25% fewer people were put into jail from 2014 to 2019, according to an analysis by the Data Collaborative For Justice.

Lorraine Taylor, who leads the Juvenile Justice Institute at North Carolina Central University, said the findings also show racial disparities.

"Although the number of individuals who are in the jail – the population has declined – Black people are becoming even more over-represented in the numbers that are there,” Taylor said.

Taylor says Black people also had to stay in jail longer than white people. On average, Black people spent three and a half more days in jail.

A main factor is the increase in the cost of bail, Taylor said. Bail increased by more than one third from 2014 to 2019, accounting for inflation, according to the report.

"If you are poor and don't have financial resources, you shouldn't be punished in addition to, you know, whatever your actual court case is about because you are poor,” Taylor said.

Taylor said another likely reason people spent more time in jail is because fewer people were arrested for misdemeanors and nonviolent charges, which can be resolved more quickly than felonies.

Cole del Charco is WUNC’s morning reporter. He’s worked for WUNC since 2019.
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