Epidemic of Overcrowding in Rural Jails

The New York Times in a recent piece examines the issue of overcrowding in rural jails, focusing on the Hamblen County Jail in particular. While the facility is intended to house just 255 inmates, it housed 439 at the end of October, with inmates sleeping on mats in the hallways and lawyers forced to meet with their clients in a supply closet. Experts attribute the increase primarily to crimes committed in support of methamphetamine and opioid addictions, which has devastated bucolic communities. While rural jails have seen a spike in inmates, urban jail populations have dropped about 18% nationally since 2013, likely due to increased use of alternative sentencing programs in these areas.

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