Colo. jail to start increasing inmate population as coronavirus concerns abate

"We need to begin to allow officers to hold people accountable," said Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle


By Mitchell Byars
Daily Camera, Boulder, Colo.
        
BOULDER, Colo. — The Boulder County Jail will begin to revise its arrest standards and allow an increase in jail population as lower positivity and hospitalization rates have eased some of the concerns around the coronavirus.

During the pandemic, the Boulder County Jail cut its inmate population from 500 to under 300 in an effort to reduce the amount of people in the facility and to allow for quarantining and screening for new inmates.

The jail has dealt with numerous COVID-19 outbreaks and was listed on the state database as having an outbreak as recently as June 24. The sheriff's office also said that although the facility is holding clinics, on average only about half of the inmates at the jail are vaccinated due to many inmates refusing the vaccine.

Sheriff Joe Pelle, right, of Boulder County, Colo., speaks as Rep. Tom Sullivan, D-Aurora, listens before Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signs a bill to allow Colorado to become the 15th state in the union to adopt a
Sheriff Joe Pelle, right, of Boulder County, Colo., speaks as Rep. Tom Sullivan, D-Aurora, listens before Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signs a bill to allow Colorado to become the 15th state in the union to adopt a "red flag" gun law during a ceremony Friday, April 12, 2019, in the State Capitol in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

But in a release issued Tuesday, the sheriff's office said the concerns surrounding the pandemic have eased enough that the jail felt it would be able to start increasing the amount of inmates.

"The good news is that as the positivity rates and hospitalizations have declined, it is now appropriate to allow the population within the jail to increase," the release read.

The jail will still be keeping COVID-19 protocols in place, which have included limited outside visits.

"We acknowledge that there are repeat offenders who have been ignoring summons to court and causing problems in the Boulder County community," Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said in a statement. "We need to begin to allow officers to hold people accountable, without throwing the door of the jail wide open and inviting an outbreak."

From discussions at Boulder City Council about an increase in crime in the downtown area to a failed state bill, arrest standards and jail populations have become a issue of contention in Colorado over the course of the last year or so as jails have tried to balance COVID concerns and the rights of defendants with law enforcement concerns about the ability to keep offenders in custody.

"The Boulder Police Department understands the unprecedented challenges COVID-19 represented for Sheriff Pelle and the Boulder County Sheriff's Office," Boulder police Chief Maris Herold said in a statement Tuesday. "We appreciate and support the new jail standards and we recognize the importance of the Boulder County jail and how it plays a crucial role in preventing community harm."
    
(c)2021 the Daily Camera (Boulder, Colo.)

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