In the last couple of years, the La Crosse County jail was becoming crowded enough that the sheriff’s office was talking about maybe opening up spare space for more prisoners.
Drug crimes and bail jumping helped lead to a record number of felonies in La Crosse County courts last year. Ironically, while some crime numbers went up, the jail population has been going down.
“We had reached a high of 225 inmates last April and we tried to maintain a recommendation from our jail inspector of 174 inmates,” Chief Deputy Jeff Wolf said.
Wolf told a county judiciary committee that there were 203 inmates in jail during April. This week, there are about 180 inmates, compared to the 2017 average of 214.
Judges in La Crosse County are often criticized — especially by local police — for reportedly letting prisoners out of jail too easily, only to re-offend.
The number of prisoners now in the county jail is down from an unusually high number a year ago, according to Wolf. But have low bonds led to a smaller jail population?
Wolf says many factors may be responsible for the decline in prisoners and that it’s harder to pinpoint than increases in prisoners.
“We’ve taken a closer look at those inmates that are in jail on low cash bonds to see how long they’re going to be here and make sure the judges review them,” Wolf said. “There’s a public perception out there and maybe in certain cases it can be established that, yeah they shouldn’t be out of jail, but a lot of studying and a lot of decision makers are involved in the criminal justice process.”
Wolf said the typical prisoner gets out in less than 15 days.