The Larimer County Commissioners voted to approve funding the first phase of the jail expansion on Tuesday, July 16.
This project has been hidden from the public view through the use of backhanded funding practices that do not require community input through a vote, community input or any community discussion. Read more here and here.
The Fort Collins Homeless Coalition supports improving conditions in the jail WITHOUT increasing the number of people incarcerated. We want our County to invest in community-based care, not more incarceration. Along with Fuerza Latina, and other community groups, we are working together to put pressure on the County to be transparent in this process and to listen and respond democratically to the demands from people who are disproportionately impacted by incarceration, policing and surveillance.
Larimer County Does Not Need a Costly Jail Expansion
- The majority of people incarcerated in Larimer County Jail have not been convicted of any crime. Rather, they are being detained because they cannot afford bail.
- The number of people in county jails who have been convicted & sentenced to jail has actually decreased in the past 20 years. Today, local jails are filled with people who are legally innocent, marginalized, and overwhelmingly poor.
- After an arrest — wrongful or not — a person’s ability to leave jail depends on money. Poorer Americans and people of color often can’t afford to come up with money for bail, leaving them stuck in jail. Meanwhile, wealthier people accused of the same crime can buy their freedom and return home.
- In 2019, 40% of Americans are unable to cover a single $400 emergency expense…including money for bail.
- In Colorado, factors such as being homeless can actually increase the amount of bail a person must pay. A bail assessment system adopted in 2013 (CPAT) includes several factors directly related to being poor; since 2013, the number of homeless people awaiting trial in Larimer County Jail has risen steadily as a direct result of this policy. We need to build affordable housing, not more jails.
- Jail growth fuels cycles of marginalization, poverty, and incarceration, especially for women and communities of color. While awaiting trial, a person wealthy enough to afford bail is often able to return to work; those who are incarcerated often lose their jobs, housing and even their Social Security payments. Incarceration makes poor people poorer — costing them lost opportunities, damaged relationships, trauma, and economic setbacks.
- Humanitarian improvements in the jail are important: Larimer County Jail needs refurbishments to bring the building up to safe, sanitary conditions. But incarcerating people unnecessarily in jail is costing the County millions of dollars and contributing to over-crowding; the proposed jail expansion will add over a hundred million dollars in taxpayer expenses. We can improve jail conditions without increasing the number of people incarcerated, but this plan is not the right way to do that.
- Larimer County has recently (and democratically!) approved a ballot measure to fund behavioral health services. The County should be ensuring that treatment programs and alternative sentencing programs are implemented before committing to massive debt to fund to a jail expansion that is unnecessary, inhumane, and unwanted.
- Education, jobs, and housing are a better use of County money, and would reduce incarceration while helping our community thrive.
Article from the Coloradoan: Larimer County Jail expanding to tackle overcrowding, but some question county’s methods