Findings from the Rural Jails Research and Policy Network in Georgia and Washington

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These two research briefs summarize analysis of county jail bookings in seven rural Georgia counties (2019–2020) and five rural Washington counties (2015–2021). In both Georgia and Washington, jail incarceration rates are higher in rural counties than in urban and suburban counties. The briefs, created in partnership with the University of Georgia and Washington State University, demonstrate that jails in these rural counties are primarily holding people for minor charges. Vera calls on local actors to use citation in lieu of arrest and automatic pretrial release policies, as well as to strengthen pretrial services and avoid using jail as a penalty for failing to appear in court or for technical probation violations.

We invite you to read the county-specific fact sheets:

The Rural Jails Research and Policy Network, funded by Arnold Ventures, supports collaborative research and capacity-building with local justice systems in Washington and Georgia. For more info:

Key Takeaway

The majority of jail admissions in rural counties in both Georgia and Washington were for nonviolent charges, including driving with a suspended license, penalties related to navigating criminal legal system rules (like failure to appear in court), and probation violations.

Publication Highlights

  • Racial disparities are stark in rural jail admissions in both states, for Black and Indigenous people in Washington, and for Black people in Georgia.

  • Drug possession charges, most commonly for cannabis possession, drive jail admissions in Georgia counties—but drug trafficking charges do not.

  • In Washington, statewide mandatory arrest policies for domestic violence charges contribute to assault charges being a leading reason for jail detention, including for women.

Key Facts