Administrative Jail Release
Since 1991, administrative jail release (AJR) has been regularly utilized to address jail overcrowding by accelerating the release process for some individuals in the Wayne County Jail. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, criteria for AJR was expanded in order to decrease transmission in the jail facilities and to prioritize individuals with serious medical conditions that would be more vulnerable to contracting the virus. A committee of stakeholders including judges, prosecutors, attorneys representing detainees at large1, and jail medical staff was formed at the start of pandemic to review releases. The expanded AJR criteria included:
- Charges: The committee considered those with misdemeanors and non-serious felonies, excluded capital cases and serious felonies. As the pandemic intensified, more serious felonies were considered for AJR.
- Health conditions: The committee aligned with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as they changed over the course of the pandemic (ex., pregnancy, diabetes, advanced age, respiratory issues, cancer, HIV).
- Reentry conditions: The committee ensured that individuals with behavioral health needs had housing and access to resources for reentry.
Administrative jail release data and outcomes
Staff at the Center for Behavioral Health and Justice (CBHJ) and the Wayne State University Criminology & Criminal Justice department evaluated AJR practices at Wayne County Jail using data from 61,762 bookings between January 2018 - December of 2020.
- A total of 402 AJRs were found in the data: 251 during the pandemic (COVID AJR) and 151 prior to the pandemic (traditional AJR).
- Over both AJR periods, individuals granted AJR were more likely to be older (39 years old vs. 35 years old), White (47% vs. 26%), and a mental health consumer (32% vs. 16%) compared to those not granted AJR.
- During the pandemic, AJRs were granted to more people of color (59%) than prior to the pandemic (43%).
- The CBHJ created a scale to quantify cumulative risk of recidivism among groups in the jail. The scale included data on age, current booking offense severity, and number of prior felonies and misdemeanors and ranged from 0 (least risk) to 8 (highest risk).
- Traditional AJRs had an average risk score of 3.9, while COVID AJRs was 4.7.
- The average risk score for COVID AJR rebookings was 5.3.
- Of the 251 COVID-19 AJRs, 26% returned to the Wayne County Jail, with only eight individuals (3%) returning on an assaultive2 charge through June of 2021. Thirty-four individuals (14%) reentered the jail on a probation violation, 15 (6%) on a drug or property charge, eight (3%) on an assaultive charge2, and seven (3%) on other3 charges.
Key Findings and recommendations
- Despite higher risk scores, only 3% of individuals released on COVID AJR returned to the Wayne County Jail on an assaultive charge.
- Collaboration between judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and medical staff was critical to share information and discuss available resources for successful releases.
- Expanded criteria increased early release options for people of color.
- The Wayne County Jail should explore implementing a systematic and objective process for equitable continuation and expansion of early releases.
- Some attorneys who participated in the COVID-AJR group represent a class of "all past, present, and future detainees" in the Wayne County Jail, as defined by the plaintiff group in Wayne County Jail Inmates v. Wayne County Sheriff, 1971. Defense attorneys of record (representing individual detainees) were not included in case reviews. ^Back
- Assaultive charges include assault, assault & battery, assault with a dangerous weapon, criminal sexual conduct, domestic violence, home invasion, homicide, unarmed robbery. ^Back
- Other charges include failure to appear, ordinance violations, etc. ^Back