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 (roughly 97 percent) who are booked into the jail. Eighty-three percent of those who do not receive a custodial sentence are released to the community before trial, and the remaining 17 percent are released following the resolution of the case.

Even though they represent just one in six of those who are released to the community, people who were detained until their case was resolved had the most significant impact on the jail population because they stayed in jail longer—57 days on average. People who were able to secure their release before their trial stayed in jail an average of five days, which was still a significant driver of the jail population due to the vast number of people in this group.

Regardless of how long one is detained pretrial, studies suggest that just a few days in jail can destabilize someone’s life and further reduce resources available prior to arrest.9 For example, even two or three days in jail—and thus away from work and families—could cause a defendant to lose their job, custody of their children, and more.

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