Overcrowding forces Kitsap County jail to release inmates

Port Orchard, Wash. -- Overcrowding in the Kitsap County Jail is forcing officials to change the standards about who stays behind bars and who gets released.

Anyone arrested in Kitsap County is still booked into jail, but depending on the suspected crimes, some are being released without bail.

The jail can operate with 421 inmates, but the population is currently exceeding that number. On Friday, the jail was 11 percent over maximum capacity.

"We're experiencing inmates staying longer. The courts are seeing an increase in persons coming through there facing sentencing, so it's a matter of these two aspects that are driving this," said Kitsap County sheriff's deputy Scott Wilson .

In response, the chief of corrections made some changes to the jail's intake standards.

Right now, the jail is booking and holding inmates for felony crimes, felony drug charges and domestic violence. But officials are releasing people suspected of nonviolent crimes, including misdemeanor theft, driving with a suspended license and DUI.

"It's something they look at as a precursor to which ones they feel would be the ones -- the crimes that would be the least likely to re-offend," Wilson said.

The overcrowding also comes as the jail deals with budget issues and limited staff. But Wilson said the changes at the jail were made with safety in mind.

"We recognize that fact that's why we're only being less restrictive with regard to crimes against property or civil violations, we're not talking about crimes against persons," Wilson said.

Wilson said officials are looking at the jail population every day, so the standards will change as the number of inmates decrease.