Jail study highlights recent trends

A recent study of Central Virginia Regional Jail shows that felony probation violations now account for more of the time Louisa County inmates spend in the jail than any other offense.

Neal Goodloe, a planner for the Thomas Jefferson Area Community Criminal Justice Board, conducted the study with the cooperation of the jurisdictions and superintendent at the jail in Orange to examine trends and changes in crime patterns.

“My intention is not to suggest any trend or data point is ‘good’ or ‘bad,’” Goodloe said as he presented the data to the Louisa County Board of Supervisors on Nov. 16.

Each day, or what the jail calls a “bed day,” that a person is held at the jail costs about $90. That figure stands out to the supervisors each year as they consider the overall expense of operating the jail.

Louisa’s population has increased 12.9 percent since 2010, which Goodloe said is important to consider when reviewing inmate demographics.

Goodloe analyzed both intakes, the number of individuals serving time in the jail, and bookings, the number of charges each individual has.

Louisa intakes have decreased 22 percent since 2010, and booking volume is down 17 percent. But felony bookings have increased 10 percent.

“Bookings are a really good way of looking at [the number of charges] and how serious [they are], whereas intakes are a better look at the demographics, how long people stay and how many bed days they consume,” Goodloe said.

Goodloe found that overall, reported violent crime in Louisa has dropped 20 percent since 2010, while crimes against property increased 12 percent and crimes against society grew by 31 percent.

One of the most notable crimes against society is illegal drug use. Louisa drug and narcotics violations have increased 22 percent since 2010.

“The beginning of the opioid crisis began around 2010 and opioids became your number one drug of abuse,” Goodloe said.

He also noted that the use of methamphetamine has risen the last three years across the region. While it hasn’t yet reached a “critical threshold” in Louisa, Goodloe urged law enforcement to be on the lookout for what seems to be a trend.

Goodloe examined the race, gender and age of intakes. He found that Louisa’s white intakes decreased eight percent over the past decade, while Black intakes fell 21 percent. White and Black bookings have also decreased by three and 11 percent, respectively.

However, the average length of stay for white intakes has increased 26 percent, while the average length of stay for Black intakes has increased 33 percent.

This means that while the number of Black individuals in jail has decreased as well as the number of charges against them, Black people are spending longer in jail than their fellow white inmates.

“There are things Louisa can say about the racial equity of its jail population that are trending in the more equitable direction,” Goodloe said. “And there are some that are trending in the less equitable direction, and the one that’s heading in the less equitable direction is average length of stay.”

There has also been a significant increase in female intakes and bookings over  the last decade. Louisa’s male intakes have decreased 19 percent, and female intakes have increased five percent. Male bookings have decreased 15 percent, and female bookings have increased 50 percent.

This means that while there’s not a significant increase in the number of females coming to the jail, there has been a significant increase in the number of charges against them.

The average length of stay increased 21 percent for male inmates and 89 percent for females. Louisa is not the only county seeing a rise in female inmates.

“The prevalence of women in correctional settings is rising everywhere,” Goodloe said. “It is a national trend, a state trend, a jail-wide trend.”

Another notable trend is that the age of jail inmates is rising. The number of people held in the jail between ages 18 and 24 dropped 37 percent, while those aged 30 to 39 have increased by a comparable amount.

Goodloe still wants to understand the “why” behind the numbers. He intends to meet with local law enforcement and decision-makers to discuss what’s causing changes in the jail population. He’s also interested in policies and programs that could address the root causes of crime, with the aim of reducing bed days and saving taxpayer dollars.

“I serve at the direction of those who have to make decisions, and they will help me craft a deeper analysis of this data that helps us understand where we might be and what else we might want to know,” Goodloe said.

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