Many jail stays are not strictly necessary

Figure 6 displays length of stay by discharge status for those who did not receive a custodial sentence, which includes most people (81 percent) who are detained after arrest. 81 percent of those who do not receive a custodial sentence are released to the community before trial, and the remaining 19 percent are released following the resolution of their case. 

Even though they represent less than one in five of those who are released to the community, people held in jail until their case was resolved had the most significant impact on the jail population because they stayed in jail longer—55 days on average. People who were released before trial stayed in jail an average of four days, which was still a significant driver of the jail population due to the large number of people in this group.

Regardless of specific lengths of time, however, studies suggest that just a few days in jail can destabilize someone’s life and further reduce resources available prior to arrest.11 For example, even two or three days in jail—and thus away from work and families—could lead a defendant to lose their job, custody of their children, and more.

Figure 6 V2