by Peter Wagner, August 28, 2017

The largest phone provider in prisons and jails, which incarcerated people use to call home, has just gotten bigger. GTL (formerly Global Tel*Link) has purchased its competitor Telmate.

In the broken market that is the prison and jail telephone business, families pay high costs because the companies compete not on the basis of low prices or high quality, but on which company will share the most revenue with the facility that awarded the company the monopoly contract. That’s how, in an era of unlimited long distance and free Skype calls, costs to receive a call from an incarcerated loved one have surpassed $1/minute.

By purchasing Telmate, GTL has eliminated a small but very quickly growing competitor. Telmate had contracts with two state prison systems (Montana and Oregon) and contracts with almost a hundred local jails. The company was one of the more innovative companies in the space, although their biggest contribution to the market might have been various kinds of creative accounting tricks that transferred money from customers’ pockets to Telmate without federal and state tax collectors or correctional facilities catching on.

Now that the number of major national companies competing for contracts has declined to just two (GTL and Securus), it will be that much harder for facilities that want to lower prices to do so. How bad is GTL and Securus’ domination of the industry? Our research associate Alex Clark determined each company’s market share as of July 2017 and prepared this chart:

Table 1 Market dominance of prison telephone providers prior to GTL purchase of Telmate. Percentage of market is calculated by the most recently available reported population of each county facility or state prison system. This table shows a range of values because some providers have outdated information on their websites about who has a given contract and we were not always able to confirm which provider to credit with that contract. The actual values should therefore lie within the range given. Each jail system is counted as one contract even if the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ Census of Jails separately counted individual facilities in that jail system. Similarly, each state prison system was counted as one contract regardless of the number of facilities in the state prison system.
Phone vendor Number of contracts Percent of market
Private companies
GTL 377-586 46.0% – 52.9%
Securus 635-794 15.0% – 19.4%
CenturyLink 6-20 10.6% – 11.5%
ICSolutions 129-288 3.7% – 6.3%
Telmate 101-157 1.9% – 3.1%
Paytel 151 1.3%
NCIC 169-170 0.9% – 1.0%
CenturyLink & ICSolutions working together in Nevada 1 0.7%
Legacy Inmate 46-61 0.4% – 0.6%
Regent 15-44 0.2% – 1.0%
AmTel 26-29 0.2% – 0.3%
Reliance 145-154 0.2%
Government-run systems
Bureau of Prisons (has their own system) 1 7.90%
Iowa Department of Corrections (has their own system, buys bandwidth wholesale from from ICSolutions) 1 0.40%
Maine Department of Corrections (has their own system, with assistance from Legacy Inmate) 1 0.10%
None of the above 709 1.80%


Fewer companies will mean less choice for facilities

Because the primary differentiation between vendors is cost, having fewer companies compete for contracts will mean less choice for the facility that awards the contracts and less of an incentive for the companies to offer good deals.

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by Wendy Sawyer and Emily Widra, August 24, 2017

With growing recognition that money bail has created a “two tiered system of justice” that detains the poor but allows those with money to go free, courts relying on money bail systems face increasing pressure to change. Although the commercial bail industry argues that money bail keeps people safe and ensures appearance in court, we point to a growing body of evidence that money bail actually undermines essential criminal justice goals. Armed with the evidence of harm caused by money bail and pretrial detention, including a recent study published in the Stanford Law Review, policymakers around the country are taking action on bail reform.

This year in Texas, a federal judge ruled that Harris County’s misdemeanor bail system disproportionately impacts indigent residents and violates the Constitution – consistent with the findings of this new study. The judge then ordered all misdemeanor arrestees who are eligible for release but cannot afford bail to be released within 24 hours of their arrest on an unsecured bond (unlike secured bail bonds, defendants will only have to pay if they don’t appear in court). Since the ruling, Harris County began releasing misdemeanor pretrial detainees and implementing a new risk-assessment tool to further reduce the number of people held on misdemeanor charges who are not a risk to the community. (Harris County officials have appealed this ruling, but the Prison Policy Initiative and other organizations have filed an amicus brief in support of the original ruling.)

The judge’s decision comes on the heels of the new study of pretrial detention in Harris County published in the Stanford Law Review, that finds pretrial detention based on money bail “ultimately may serve to compromise public safety” and undermines the legitimacy of the justice process by encouraging guilty pleas, regardless of actual guilt or innocence. Overall, the study finds that the downstream effects of pretrial detention and money bail are inconsistent with the stated goal of crime prevention and that the current money bail system infringes on constitutional rights.

For the study, the researchers looked at the direct and indirect consequences of pretrial detention in over 380,000 misdemeanor cases in Harris County, Texas from 2008-2013. As far as location, the authors couldn’t have chosen a more representative site. Harris County is the third largest county in the U.S.; it includes Houston and is home to a diverse population of 4.5 million residents. In explaining the need for the study, the authors point out that past empirical work has been suggestive, but not conclusive, on the extent to which adverse outcomes for misdemeanor defendants are caused by pretrial detention. So for this study, the researchers included far more extensive control variables than previous studies, including the court’s determination of individual risk, as expressed through bail amounts. The authors conclude that because of these controls, their study shows that pretrial detention itself is causally related to case outcomes and the commission of future crimes.

The Stanford Law Review article is required reading for anyone interested in pretrial detention, money bail, and recidivism. The rigor of the study and depth of the analysis make it a lengthy but worthy read, so we have highlighted the major downstream effects discussed in the study:

  1. Pretrial detention has devastating consequences for individuals. The authors highlight empirical evidence from prior studies showing that pretrial detention has immediate impacts on individuals, including “loss of liberty and the potential loss of employment [and] housing,” as well as threatening a parent’s custody of their children. Even before going to trial, people held in jail suffer many of the same consequences of a conviction.
  2. Money bail compromises public safety. The authors compared individuals who posted bond within the first seven days following the bail hearing with those who were unable to do so. Just one month after bail hearings, there was a significantly higher incidence of new misdemeanor charges among people who were detained pre-trial than similar defendants who were released on bail. Over time, the criminogenic effect is even more pronounced: when compared with similarly situated defendants who were released after a bail hearing, the detained misdemeanor defendants were charged with 22% more misdemeanors in the year after their bail hearings. Felony defendants who were detained pretrial were charged with 30% more felonies after 18 months. The study’s authors conclude, “pretrial detention has a greater criminogenic than deterrent effect.”
  3. Pretrial detention undermines the legitimacy of the court system. This study found that pretrial detention can distort criminal justice outcomes; for misdemeanor defendants, detention increases the likelihood of a jail sentence, length of sentence, and guilty pleas. People detained pretrial because they can’t post bail are 43% more likely than similar defendants who are released to receive a jail sentence. Pretrial detention also doubles the average length of jail sentences compared to those who receive jail sentences but are not detained pretrial. Critically, pretrial detention increases the likelihood of pleading guilty by 25%, with no evidence that this decision is relevant to guilt.

The Stanford Law Review article goes on to explore the constitutional issues presented by money bail, such as equal protection rights, due process protections, and the right to counsel. The authors’ findings provide strong evidence that wealth-based inequality in pretrial detention translates to wealth-based inequality in case outcomes, so bail set without consideration of defendants’ ability to pay violates the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses. The authors argue that previous Supreme Court decisions on the “limited effect of pretrial custody” were incorrect and that, because pretrial custody has real and harmful implications, bail hearings are “critical” stages of criminal proceedings, necessitating a right to legal representation. The article also points to additional constitutional implications, including excessive cash bail, pretrial punishment, and involuntary plea bargains, which all warrant further attention in both the academic literature and the conversations around bail reform advocacy.

The authors’ findings make a strong case for bail reform that should bring even the staunchest supporters of money bail to their senses. Money bail actually increases risks to public safety and influences case outcomes in ways that contribute to more incarceration, so it ultimately costs more in the long run, with no appreciable payoffs for locking up misdemeanor and other low-risk defendants. The authors rightly call for a shift in the criminal justice system toward “bail systems that reduce wealth disparities, increase public safety, and minimize the lengthy periods of detention that have such high budgetary and human costs.”

Policymakers seem to finally be getting the message — in Harris County and around the country. This January, for example, New Jersey switched from a primarily money bail system to one that makes release decisions based on risk factors instead of a defendant’s ability to pay. (There, reforms are yielding quick results: as of July, the state’s pretrial jail population was down 34% from where it was in 2015.) And last month, Senators Kamala Harris and Rand Paul introduced a bipartisan bill to encourage states to replace or reform money bail systems. Not least because pretrial detention accounts for 99% of all jail growth over the past 20 years, bail reform advocates from both sides of the aisle can agree on the counter-productiveness and harms of pretrial detention.

The study can be found at:
Heaton, P., Mayson, S., & Stevenson, M. (2017). The downstream consequences of misdemeanor pretrial detention. Stanford Law Review, 69(3), 711-794.

by Alex Clark, August 24, 2017

With the recent electoral defeat of long-time Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County (Phoenix) Arizona, and the retirement of two long-time sheriffs in western Massachusetts where the Prison Policy Initiative is based, it seems more timely than ever to take a closer look at America’s elected sheriffs. I chose to look through the twin lenses of incumbency and campaign expenditures in order to understand more about candidates and the larger election system.

Already being in office — incumbency — is a tremendous political advantage, but how common is serving for 24 years like Joe Arpaio, 32 years like Hampshire County (Mass.) Sheriff Robert Garvey, or 42 years like Hampden County (Mass.) Sheriff Michael Ashe? My research suggests that those terms are not without peers, but that most sheriffs do not have the same extreme incumbency advantages. The average time in office is about 10 years.

For the 200 largest jails in the U.S., I collected the name of the current sheriff, his/her time served, and where available, the same information for the previous sheriffs:

Incumbency and length of service for Sheriffs of large jails

Data was not available for all counties and all sheriffs. This table is based on a list of the 200 largest jails as reported by the Annual Survey of Jails, 2014. Past and present sheriffs, and their terms of service, were collected through county and sheriff websites, news articles and similar online sources. Complete information was difficult to get for many counties, particularly counties with smaller jails (<1,200 confined people), so future researchers may need to further supplement this table. (Thanks to Cordell Smith for helping to track down data for some of the smaller counties.) Asterisks indicate sheriffs who were convicted of crime(s) during or after their time in office.
State County Sheriff Status Years in Office Time in Office
AL Etowah County Todd Entrekin Incumbent 2007-present 10
AL Jefferson County Michael “Mike” Hale Incumbent 2003-present 14
AL Jefferson County Jim Woodward Past sheriff 1999-2003 4
AL Jefferson County Michael “Mike” Hale Past sheriff 1999-1999 0
AL Jefferson County Jim Woodward Past sheriff 1996-1999 3
AL Madison County Blake Dorning Past sheriff ? ?
AR Pulaski County Doc Holladay Incumbent 2007-present 10
AZ Maricopa County Paul Pezone Incumbent 2017-present 0
AZ Maricopa County Joe Arpaio* Past sheriff 1993-2017 24
AZ Maricopa County Thomas J Agnos Past sheriff 1989-1993 4
AZ Maricopa County Richard Godbehere Past sheriff 1985-1989 4

AZ Pima County Mark Napier Incumbent 2017-present 0
AZ Pima County Chris Nanos Past sheriff 2015-2017 2
AZ Pima County Clarence Dupnik Past sheriff 1980-2015 35
AZ Pima County Richard J. Boykin Past sheriff 1977-1980 3
AZ Pinal County Mark Lamb Incumbent ?-present ?
CA Alameda County Gregory J. Ahern Incumbent 2007-present 10
CA Alameda County Charles Plummer Past sheriff 1987-2007 20
CA Alameda County Glenn Dyer Past sheriff 1979-1987 8
CA Alameda County Thomas Lafayette Houchins Jr. Past sheriff 1975-1979 4
CA Contra Costa County David Livingston Incumbent 2011-present 6
CA Contra Costa County Warren E. Rupf Past sheriff 1992-2011 19
CA Contra Costa County Richard K. Rainey Past sheriff 1979-1992 13
CA Contra Costa County Harry D. Ramsay Past sheriff 1973-1978 5
CA Fresno County Margaret Mims Incumbent 2006-present 11
CA Fresno County Richard Guy Pierce Past sheriff 1999-2007 8
CA Fresno County Steven Dan Magarian Past sheriff 1987-1999 12
CA Fresno County Harold Charles McKinney Past sheriff 1975-1987 12
CA Kern County Donny Youngblood Incumbent 2007-present 10
CA Kern County Mack Wimbish Past sheriff 2003-2007 4
CA Kern County Carl L. Sparks Past sheriff 1991-2003 12
CA Kern County John R. Smith Past sheriff 1987-1991 4
CA Los Angeles County John Scott (Acting Sheriff) Past sheriff 2014-2014 0
CA Los Angeles County Jim McDonnell Incumbent 2014-present 3
CA Los Angeles County Lee Baca* Past sheriff 1998-2014 16
CA Los Angeles County Sherman Block Past sheriff 1982-1998 16
CA Merced County Vern Warnke Incumbent ?-present ?
CA Monterey County Steve Bernal Incumbent ?-present ?
CA Orange County Jack Anderson* (Acting Sheriff) Past sheriff 2008-2008 0
CA Orange County Sandra Hutchens Incumbent 2008-present 9
CA Orange County Michael Carona* Past sheriff 1999-2008 9
CA Orange County Brad Gates* Past sheriff 1975-1999 24
CA Riverside County Stanley Sniff Incumbent 2007-present 10
CA Riverside County Bob Doyle Past sheriff 2003-2007 4
CA Riverside County Larry Smith Past sheriff 1994-2002 8
CA Riverside County Cois Byrd Past sheriff 1986-1994 8
CA Sacramento County Scott Jones Incumbent 2010-present 7
CA Sacramento County John McGinness Past sheriff 2006-2010 4
CA Sacramento County Lou Blanas Past sheriff 1998-2006 8
CA San Bernardino County John McMahon Incumbent 2014-present 3
CA San Bernardino County John McMahon (Acting Sheriff) Past sheriff 2012-2014 2
CA San Bernardino County Rod Hopkins Past sheriff 2009-2012 3
CA San Bernardino County Gary Penrod* Past sheriff 1994-2009 15
CA San Diego County William D. Gore Incumbent 2009-present 8
CA San Diego County William B. Kolender Past sheriff 1995-2009 14
CA San Diego County Jim Roache Past sheriff 1991-1995 4
CA San Diego County John F. Duffy Past sheriff 1971-1991 20
CA San Francisco City & County Vicki Hennessy Incumbent 2016-present 1
CA San Francisco City & County Vicki Hennessy (Acting Sheriff) Past sheriff 2012-2012 0
CA San Francisco City & County Ross Mirkarimi* Past sheriff 2012-2016 4
CA San Francisco City & County Michael Hennessy Past sheriff 1980-2012 32
CA San Joaquin County Steve Moore Incumbent 2007-present 10
CA San Joaquin County Bob Heidelback Past sheriff 2005-2007 2
CA San Joaquin County Baxter Dunn Past sheriff 1991-2005 14
CA San Joaquin County John Zunino Past sheriff 1983-1991 8
CA San Mateo County Carlos Bolanos Incumbent 2016-present 1
CA San Mateo County Greg Munks Past sheriff 2007-2016 9
CA San Mateo County Don Horsley Past sheriff 1993-2007 14
CA San Mateo County Leonard Cardoza Past sheriff 1986-1993 7
CA Santa Barbara County Bill Brown Incumbent ?-present ?
CA Santa Clara County Laurie Smith Incumbent 1999-present 18
CA Santa Clara County Charles P Gingham Past sheriff 1989-1998 9
CA Santa Clara County Robert E Winter Past sheriff 1978-1989 11
CA Santa Clara County James Geary Past sheriff 1970-1978 8
CA Solano County Richard Hulse Past sheriff ? ?
CA Solano County Thomas A. Ferrara Incumbent 2012-present 5
CA Solano County Gary R. Stanton Past sheriff 2002-2012 10
CA Sonoma County Steve Freitas Incumbent 2011-present 6
CA Stanislaus County Adam Christianson Incumbent ?-present ?
CA Tulare County Mike Boudreaux Incumbent 2015-present 2
CA Tulare County William “Bill” D. Wittman Past sheriff 1995-2015 20
CA Tulare County Melvin “Butch” Coley Past sheriff 1991-1995 4
CA Tulare County Bob Wiley Past sheriff 1967-1991 24
CA Ventura County Geoff Dean Incumbent 2011-present 6
CA Ventura County Bob Brooks Past sheriff 1998-2011 13
CA Ventura County Larry Carpenter Past sheriff 1993-1998 5
CA Ventura County John V. Gillespie Past sheriff 1984-1992 8
CO Adams County Michael McIntosh Incumbent ?-present ?
CO Arapahoe County David C. Walcher Incumbent 2014-present 3
CO Denver County Elias Diggins* Past sheriff 2014-2014 0
CO Denver County Patrick Firman Incumbent 2014-present 3
CO Denver County Gary Wilson Past sheriff 2010-2014 4
CO El Paso County Bill Elder Incumbent 2014-present 3
CO El Paso County Terry Maketa Past sheriff 2003-2014 11
CO El Paso County John Wesley Anderson Past sheriff 1995-2003 8
CO Jefferson County Jeff Shrader Incumbent 2015-present 2
CO Jefferson County Ted Mink Past sheriff 2003-2014 11
DC District Of Columbia appointed officials ?
FL Alachua County Sadie Darnell Incumbent 2007-present 10
FL Alachua County Stephen M. Oelrich Past sheriff 1992-2006 14
FL Alachua County Lucian J. “Lu” Hindery Past sheriff 1976-1992 16
FL Bay County Tommy Ford Incumbent 2017-present 0
FL Bay County Frank McKeithen Past sheriff 2003-2016 13
FL Brevard County Wayne Ivey Incumbent 2013-present 4
FL Brevard County Jack Parker Past sheriff 2005-2013 8
FL Brevard County Phillip B. Williams Past sheriff 1997-2005 8
FL Brevard County Claude W. “Jake” Miller Past sheriff 1981-1997 16
FL Broward County Scott Israel Incumbent 2013-present 4
FL Broward County Al Lamberti Past sheriff 2007-2013 6
FL Broward County Ken Jenne* Past sheriff 1997-2007 10
FL Broward County Ron Cochran Past sheriff 1993-1997 4
FL Collier County Kevin J. Rambosk Incumbent 2009-present 8
FL Collier County Don Hunter Past sheriff 1989-2008 19
FL Hillsborough County David Gee Incumbent 2004-present 13
FL Hillsborough County Cal Henderson Past sheriff 1992-2004 12
FL Hillsborough County Walter C. Heinrich Past sheriff 1978-1992 14
FL Hillsborough County Malcolm Beard Past sheriff 1965-1978 13
FL Jacksonville City Mike Williams Incumbent 2015-present 2
FL Jacksonville City John Rutherford Past sheriff 2004-2015 11
FL Jacksonville City Nat Glover Past sheriff 1996-2004 8
FL Jacksonville City Jim McMillian Past sheriff 1986-1996 10
FL Lake County Gary S. Borders Past sheriff 2006-2016 10
FL Lake County Peyton C. Grinnell Incumbent 2017-present
FL Lee County Mike Scott Incumbent 2001-present 16
FL Leon County Walt McNeil Incumbent 2017-present 0
FL Manatee County Rick Wells Incumbent ?-present ?
FL Marion County Billy Woods Incumbent 2016-present 1
FL Marion County Chris Blair Past sheriff 2012-2016 4
FL Marion County Ed Dean Past sheriff 2000-2012 12
FL Marion County Ed Dean (Acting Sheriff) Past sheriff 1998-2000 2
FL Miami-Dade County appointed officials ?
FL Orange County Jerry Demings Incumbent 2009-present 8
FL Orange County Kevin Beary Past sheriff 1993-2009 16
FL Orange County Walter Gallagher Past sheriff 1989-1993 4
FL Orange County Lawson L. Lamar Past sheriff 1980-1989 9
FL Palm Beach County Ric L. Bradshaw Incumbent 2005-present 12
FL Palm Beach County Ed Bieluch Past sheriff 2001-2005 4
FL Palm Beach County Bob Neumann Past sheriff 1997-2000 3
FL Palm Beach County Charles McCutcheon Past sheriff 1995-1996 1
FL Pasco County Chris Nocco Incumbent 2011-present 6
FL Pasco County Bob White Past sheriff 2001-2011 10
FL Pasco County Lee Cannon Past sheriff 1993-2001 8
FL Pasco County Jim Gillum Past sheriff 1984-1993 9
FL Pinellas County Bob Gualtieri Incumbent 2011-present 6
FL Pinellas County James F. “Jim” Coats Past sheriff 2004-2011 7
FL Pinellas County Everett S. Rice Past sheriff 1989-2004 15
FL Pinellas County Gerard A. “Gerry” Coleman Past sheriff 1981-1989 8
FL Polk County Grady Judd Incumbent 2004-present 13
FL Polk County Lawrence W. Crow Jr. Past sheriff 1987-2004 17
FL Polk County H.E. “Dan” Daniels Past sheriff 1985-1987 2
FL Polk County Louie T. Mims Past sheriff 1976-1985 9
FL Sarasota County Thomas M. Knight Incumbent 2009-present 8
FL Sarasota County Captain William Balkwill Past sheriff 2000-2009 9
FL Sarasota County Geoffrey Monge Past sheriff 1985-2000 15
FL Sarasota County Jim Hardcastle Past sheriff 1973-1985 12
FL Seminole County Dennis M. Lemma Incumbent 2017-present 0
FL Seminole County Don Eslinger Past sheriff 1991-2017 26
FL Seminole County John E. Polk Past sheriff 1968-1990 22
FL Seminole County Peter Milliot Past sheriff 1967-1968 1
FL St Lucie County Ken Mascara Incumbent 2000-present 17
FL St Lucie County R.C. Knowles Past sheriff 1985-2000 15
FL St Lucie County C.L. Norvell Past sheriff 1973-1985 12
FL St Lucie County J.R. Norvell Past sheriff 1953-1973 20
FL Volusia County Michael J. Chitwood Incumbent 2017-present 0
FL Volusia County Ben F. Johnson Past sheriff 2001-2017 16
FL Volusia County Robert L. Vogel, Jr. Past sheriff 1989-2001 12
FL Volusia County Edwin H. Duff II Past sheriff 1969-1989 20
GA Bibb County Robbie Johnson Past sheriff ? ?
GA Bibb County David Davis Incumbent 2013-present 4
GA Bibb County Jerry Modena Past sheriff 2001-2012 11
GA Chatham County John T. Wilcher Incumbent 2016-present 1
GA Chatham County Roy Harris Past sheriff 2015-2016 1
GA Chatham County Al St. Lawrence Past sheriff 1992-2015 23
GA Chatham County Walter Mitchell Past sheriff 1984-1992 8
GA Clayton County Victor Hill Incumbent 2013-present 4
GA Clayton County Kemuel A. Kimbrough, Sr. Past sheriff 2009-2013 4
GA Clayton County Victor Hill Past sheriff 2005-2009 4
GA Clayton County Stanley W. Tuggle Past sheriff 1997-2005 8
GA Cobb County Neil Warren Incumbent 2004-present 13
GA Cobb County Bill M. Hutson Past sheriff 1976-2004 28
GA Cobb County Kermit C. Sanders Past sheriff 1957-1976 19
GA Cobb County Harry R. Scroggins Past sheriff 1946-1957 11
GA Dekalb County Derwin Brown Past sheriff 2000 Sheriff Elect
(died 3 days before taking office)
GA Dekalb County Jeffrey L. Mann* Incumbent 2014-present 3
GA Dekalb County Thomas Brown Past sheriff 2001-2014 13
GA Dekalb County Sidney Dorsey* Past sheriff 1996-2001 5
GA Dougherty County Kevin Sproul Incumbent 2009-present 8
GA Fulton County Theodore “Ted” Jackson Incumbent 2009-present 8
GA Fulton County Theodore “Ted” Jackson (Acting Sheriff) Past sheriff 2004-2004 0
GA Fulton County Myron E. Freeman Past sheriff 2004-2009 5
GA Fulton County Jacquelyn Barrett Past sheriff 1993-2004 11
GA Gwinnett County Butch Conway Incumbent 1996-present 21
GA Hall County Gerald Couch Incumbent 2013-present 4
GA Richmond County Richard Roundtree Incumbent 2013-present 4
GA Richmond County Ronnie Strength Past sheriff 2001-2012 11
IA Polk County Bill McCarthy Incumbent ?-present ?
ID Ada County Stephen Bartlett Incumbent 2015-present 2
ID Ada County Gary Raney Past sheriff 2005-2015 10
IL Cook County Thomas J Dart Incumbent 2010-present 7
IL Cook County Michael F. Sheahan Past sheriff 1990-2006 16
IL Cook County James O’Grady* Past sheriff 1986-1990 4
IL Cook County Richard Elrod Past sheriff 1970-1986 16
IL Winnebago County Gary Caruana Incumbent 2015-present 2
IL Winnebago County Dick Meyers Past sheriff 1997-2015 18
IL Winnebago County Don Gasparini Past sheriff 1979-1997 18
IN Allen County David J. Gladieux Incumbent ?-present ?
IN Lake County John Buncich Incumbent ?-present ?
IN Marion County John R. Layton Incumbent 2011-present 6
IN Marion County Frank J. Anderson Past sheriff 2003-2010 7
IN Marion County Jack L. Cottey Past sheriff 1995-2002 7
IN Marion County Joseph G. McAtee Past sheriff 1987-1994 7
KS Leavenworth County Andrew D. Dedeke Incumbent ?-present ?
KS Sedgwick County Jeff Easter Incumbent ?-present ?
KY Jefferson County Col. John Aubrey Incumbent 1999-present 18
KY Lexington-Fayette County Kathy H. Witt Incumbent 1998-present 19
LA Bossier Parish Julian C. Whittington Incumbent ?-present ?
LA Caddo Parish Steve Prator Incumbent ?-present ?
LA Calcasieu Parish Tony Mancuso Incumbent 2004-present 13
LA Calcasieu Parish Wayne McElveen Past sheriff 1980-2004 24
LA Catahoula Parish Toney Edwards Incumbent ?-present ?
LA East Baton Rouge City Sid J. Gautreaux, III Incumbent 2007-present 10
LA East Baton Rouge City Greg Phares Past sheriff 2006-2007 1
LA East Baton Rouge City Fred Sliman Jr. Past sheriff 1983-1983 0
LA East Baton Rouge City Elmer B. Litchfield Past sheriff 1983-2006 23
LA East Carroll Parish Wydette Williams Incumbent 2012-present 5
LA Franklin Parish Kevin W. Cobb Incumbent ?-present ?
LA Jefferson Parish Newll Normand Incumbent 2007-present 10
LA Jefferson Parish Harry Lee Past sheriff 1980-2007 27
LA Jefferson Parish Andrew George Past sheriff 1979-1980 1
LA Jefferson Parish Alwynn Cronvich Past sheriff 1964-1979 15
LA Lafayette Parish Mark T. Garber Incumbent 2016-present 1
LA Lafayette Parish Mike Neustrom Past sheriff 2000-2016 16
LA Lafayette Parish Donald Breaux Past sheriff 1984-2000 16
LA Lafayette Parish Carlo P. Listi Past sheriff 1968-1984 16
LA Madison Parish Larry G. Cox Incumbent 1996-present 21
LA New Orleans Parish Marlin N. Gunsman Incumbent 2004-present 13
LA New Orleans Parish Charles Foti Past sheriff 1974-2004 30
LA Ouachita Parish Jay Russell Incumbent 2012-present 5
LA Ouachita Parish Royce Toney Past sheriff 2008-2012 4
LA Rapides Parish William Earl Hilton Incumbent ?-present ?
LA St. Tammany Parish Randy Smith Incumbent 2016-present 1
LA St. Tammany Parish Rodney Jack Strain Jr. Past sheriff 1996-2016 20
LA St. Tammany Parish Patrick J. Canulette Past sheriff 1981-1996 15
LA St. Tammany Parish George A. Broom Past sheriff 1964-1980 16
MA Bristol County Thomas M. Hodgson Incumbent 1997-present 20
MA Bristol County David R. Nelson Past sheriff 1983-1997 14
MA Bristol County Edward Dabrowski Past sheriff 1962-1983 21
MA Essex County Kevin F. Coppinger Incumbent 2017-present 0
MA Essex County Frank Cousins Past sheriff 1996-2017 21
MA Essex County Charles Reardon* Past sheriff 1978-1996 18
MA Hampden County Nicholas Cocchi Incumbent 2016-present 1
MA Hampden County Michael Ashe Past sheriff 1974-2016 42
MA Plymouth County Joseph D. McDonald Jr. Incumbent 2005-present 12
MA Plymouth County Charles Decas Past sheriff 2000-2000 0
MA Plymouth County Joseph McDonough Past sheriff 2000-2005 5
MA Plymouth County Peter Forman Past sheriff 1994-2000 6
MA Worcester County Lewis Evangelidis Incumbent 2011-present 6
MD Anne Arundel County Ronald Bateman Incumbent 2006-present 11
MD Baltimore City John W. Anderson Incumbent 1989-present 28
MD Baltimore City Shelton J. Stewart Past sheriff 1986-1989 3
MD Baltimore City George W. Freeberger Past sheriff 1974-1986 12
MD Baltimore City Frank Pelz Past sheriff 1963-1974 11
MD Baltimore County R. Jay Fisher Incumbent 2002-present 15
MD Baltimore County Anne K. Strasdauskas Past sheriff 1998-2002 4
MD Baltimore County Norman M. Pepersack, Jr. Past sheriff 1990-1998 8
MD Baltimore County J. Edmund “Ned” Malone, Sr. Past sheriff 1986-1990 4
MD Prince Georges County Melvin C. High Incumbent 2010-present 7
MD Prince Georges County Michael A. Jackson Past sheriff 2002-2010 8
MD Prince Georges County Al Black Past sheriff 1994-2002 8
MD Prince Georges County James V. Aluisi Past sheriff 1978-1994 16
MI Kent County Lawrence A. Stelma Incumbent ?-present ?
MI Macomb County Anthony M. Wickersham Incumbent 2011-present 6
MI Macomb County Mark A. Hackel Past sheriff 2001-2011 10
MI Macomb County Ronald P. Tuscany Past sheriff 2000-2001 1
MI Macomb County William H. Hackel Past sheriff 1977-2000 23
MI Oakland County Michael J. Bouchard Incumbent 1999-present 18
MO Jackson County Mike Sharp Incumbent 2009-present 8
MO St. Louis County Jim Buckles Incumbent ?-present ?
MS Harrison County Troy Peterson Incumbent 2015-present 2
MS Harrison County Melvin Brisolara Past sheriff 2008-2014 6
NC Forsyth County Ron H. Freeman Incumbent 2017-present 0
NC Forsyth County Duane Piper Past sheriff 2013-2016 3
NC Guilford County BJ Barnes Incumbent 1994-present 23
NC Guilford County Walter A. Burch Past sheriff 1986-1994 8
NC Guilford County James L. Proffitt Past sheriff 1982-1986 4
NC Guilford County Paul H. Gibson Past sheriff 1966-1982 16
NC Mecklenburg County Irwin Carmichael Incumbent 2014-present 3
NC Mecklenburg County Chipp Bailey Past sheriff 2010-2014 4
NC Mecklenburg County Chipp Bailey (Acting Sheriff) Past sheriff 2007-2010 3
NC Mecklenburg County Jim Pendergraph Past sheriff 1994-2007 13
NC Wake County Donnie Harrison Incumbent 2002-present 15
NC Wake County John Baker Past sheriff 1978-2002 24
NE Douglas County Tim Pounds Incumbent ?-present ?
NJ Atlantic County Frank X. Balles Incumbent 2009-present 8
NJ Atlantic County Jim McGettigan Past sheriff 1993-2008 15
NJ Bergen County Jail Michael Saudino Incumbent 2011- Present 6
NJ Camden County Charles H. Billingham Past sheriff 2007-2015 8
NJ Camden County William Fontanez Past sheriff 2006-2007 1
NJ Camden County G.L. “Whip” Wilson Incumbent 2005-present 12
NJ Camden County Michael W. McLaughlin Past sheriff 1995-2006 11
NJ Essex County Armando B. Fontoura Incumbent 1991-present 26
NJ Essex County Thomas J. D’Alessio Past sheriff 1983-1991 8
NJ Essex County Chuck Cummings Past sheriff 1980-1983 3
NJ Essex County John F. Cryan Past sheriff 1971-1980 9
NJ Hudson County Frank X. Schillari Incumbent 2010-present 7
NJ Hudson County Juan Perez Past sheriff 2008-2010 2
NJ Hudson County Joseph T. Cassidy Past sheriff 1995-2008 13
NJ Hudson County Edward Webster Past sheriff 1986-1995 9
NJ Mercer County John A. “Jack” Kemler Incumbent 2010-present 7
NJ Middlesex County Mildred S. Scott Incumbent 2011- Present 6
NJ Monmouth County Shaun Golden Incumbent 2009-present 8
NJ Passaic County Richard H. Berdnik Incumbent 2011-present 6
NM Torrance County Heath White Incumbent ?-present ?
NV Clark County Joe Lombardo Incumbent 2015-present 2
NV Clark County Doug Gillespie Past sheriff 2007-2015 8
NV Clark County Bill Young Past sheriff 2003-2007 4
NV Clark County Jerry Keller Past sheriff 1995-2003 8
NV Las Vegas City (Clark County) Joseph Lombardo Incumbent 2015-present 2
NV Las Vegas City (Clark County) Doug Gillespie Past sheriff 2007-2015 8
NV Las Vegas City (Clark County) Bill Young Past sheriff 2003-2007 4
NV Las Vegas City (Clark County) Jerry Kelller Past sheriff 1995-2003 8
NV Washoe County Chuck Allen Incumbent ?-present ?
NY Albany County Craig D. Apple Sr. Incumbent ?-present ?
NY Monroe County Patrick M. O’Flynn Incumbent 2001-present 16
NY Monroe County Andrew Meloni Past sheriff 1979-2001 22
NY Monroe County William Lombard Past sheriff 1973-1979 6
NY Monroe County Albert W. Skinner Past sheriff 1938-1973 35
NY New York City Joseph Fucito Incumbent 2014-present 3
NY New York City Edgar A Domenech Past sheriff 2011-2014 3
NY New York City Joseph Fucito (Acting Sheriff) Past sheriff 2010-2011 1
NY New York City Lindsay Eason Past sheriff 2002-2010 8
NY Suffolk County Vincent F. DeMarco Incumbent 2006-present 11
NY Suffolk County Alfred C. Tisch Past sheriff 2002-2006 4
NY Suffolk County Patrick Mahoney Past sheriff 1990-2002 12
NY Suffolk County Eugene Dooley Past sheriff 1986-1990 4
OH Butler County Richard K. “Jonesy” Jones Incumbent 2005-present 12
OH Cuyahoga County Clifford Pinkney Incumbent 2015-present 2
OH Cuyahoga County Frank Bova Past sheriff 2013-2015 2
OH Cuyahoga County Frank Bova Past sheriff 2009-2009 1
OH Cuyahoga County Robert R. Reid Past sheriff 2009-2013 4
OH Franklin County Dallas Bladwin Incumbent 2017-present 0
OH Franklin County Zach Scott Past sheriff 2011-2017 6
OH Franklin County Jim Karnes Past sheriff 1992-2011 19
OH Franklin County Earl Smith Past sheriff 1984-1992 8
OH Hamilton County Jim Neil Incumbent ?-present ?
OH Montgomery County Phil Plummer Incumbent 2008-present 9
OK Tulsa County Vic Regalado Incumbent 2016-present 1
OK Tulsa County Stanley Glanz Past sheriff 1989-2016 27
OK Tulsa County Dave Faulkner Past sheriff 1959-1982 23
OR Multnomah County Michael Reese Incumbent ?-present ?
OR Washington County Pat Garrett Incumbent 2012-present 5
OR Washington County Rob Gordon Past sheriff 2004-2012 8
PA Allegheny County William P. Mullen Incumbent 2006-present 11
PA Allegheny County Pete DeFazio Past sheriff 1997-2006 9
PA Allegheny County Eugene L. Coon Past sheriff 1970-1997 27
PA Allegheny County William H. Davis Past sheriff 1954-1970 16
PA Berks County Eric Weaknecht Incumbent 2008-present 9
PA Berks County Barry Jozwiak Past sheriff 1996-2008 12
PA Berks County John H. Kramer Past sheriff 1976-1996 20
PA Berks County Harold A. Yetzer Past sheriff 1968-1976 8
PA Bucks County Edward J. Donnelly Incumbent ?-present ?
PA Chester County Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh Incumbent 2000-present 17
PA Dauphin County Nicholas Chimienti Jr. Incumbent 2016-present 1
PA Dauphin County Jack Lotwick Past sheriff 1995-2016 21
PA Delaware County Mary McFall Incumbent 2014-present 3
PA Delaware County Joseph Blakburn Past sheriff 2013-2014 1
PA Delaware County Josph F. McGinn Past sheriff 2003-2013 10
PA Delaware County Chad Kenney Past sheriff 1998-2003 5
PA Lackawanna County Mark McAndrew Incumbent ?-present ?
PA Lancaster County Mark S. Reese Incumbent ?-present ?
PA Lehigh County Joseph N. Hanna Incumbent 2015-present 2
PA Lehigh County Ronald W. Rossi Past sheriff 1991-2015 24
PA Montgomery County Rand Henderson Incumbent 2017-present 0
PA Montgomery County Tommy Gage Past sheriff 2005-2017 12
PA Montgomery County Guy Williams Past sheriff 1993-2005 12
PA Montgomery County Joe Corley Past sheriff 1981-1993 12
PA Philadelphia City Jewell Williams Incumbent 2012-present 5
PA Philadelphia City Barbara Deely Past sheriff 2011-2012 1
PA Philadelphia City John Green* Past sheriff 1987-2011 24
PA York County Richard P. Keuerleber Incumbent 2008-present 9
PA York County Bill Hose Past sheriff 1995-2008 13
SC Charleston County James Alton Cannon, Jr. Incumbent 1988-present 29
SC Greenville County Will Lewis Incumbent 2017-present 0
SC Greenville County Steve Loftis Past sheriff 2002-2017 15
SC Greenville County Sam Simmons Past sheriff 2000-2002 2
SC Richland County Leon Lott Past sheriff 1997-present 20
TN Davidson County Daron Hall Incumbent 2002-present 15
TN Davidson County Gayle Ray Past sheriff 1994-2002 8
TN Davidson County Henderson “Hank” Hillin Past sheriff 1990-1994 4
TN Davidson County Lafayette “Fate” Thomas Past sheriff 1973-1990 17
TN Knox County Jimmy “J.J.” Jones Incumbent ?-present ?
TN Rutherford County Robert Arnold Past sheriff ? ?
TN Rutherford County Michael Fitzhugh Incumbent 2017-present 0
TN Shelby County Bill Oldham Incumbent 2010-present 7
TN Shelby County Mark H. Luttrell Past sheriff 2002-2010 8
TN Shelby County A.C. Gilless Past sheriff 1990-2002 12
TN Shelby County Jack Owens Past sheriff 1986-1990 4
TX Bexar County Javier Salazar Incumbent 2017-present 0
TX Bexar County Susan Pamerleau Past sheriff 2013-2016 3
TX Bexar County Amadeo Ortiz Past sheriff 2009-2013 4
TX Bexar County Ralph Lopez* Past sheriff 1993-2009 16
TX Cameron County Omar Lucio Incumbent 1997-present 20
TX Collin County Jim Skinner Incumbent 2017-present 0
TX Collin County Terry G. Box Past sheriff 1985-2016 31
TX Collin County Joe Steenbergen Past sheriff 1981-1985 4
TX Collin County Jerry W. Burton Past sheriff 1974-1980 6
TX Dallas County Lupe Valdez Incumbent 2005-present 12
TX Dallas County Jim Bowles Past sheriff 1985-2005 20
TX Dallas County Don Byrd Past sheriff 1981-1985 4
TX Dallas County Carl Thomas Past sheriff 1976-1981 5
TX Denton County Tracy Murphree Incumbent ?-present ?
TX El Paso County Richard D. Wiles Incumbent 2009-present 8
TX El Paso County Santiago “Jimmy” Apodaca Past sheriff 2008-2009 1
TX El Paso County Leo Samaniego Past sheriff 1985-2007 22
TX El Paso County Michael P. Davis Past sheriff 1982-1985 3
TX Fort Bend County Troy E. Nehls Incumbent 2013-present 4
TX Fort Bend County Milton Wright Past sheriff 1997-2013 16
TX Fort Bend County R. George Molina Past sheriff 1993-1997 4
TX Fort Bend County Perry Hillegeist Past sheriff 1989-1992 3
TX Galveston County Henry Trochesset Incumbent 2013-present 4
TX Galveston County Freddie Poor Past sheriff 2009-2012 3
TX Galveston County M.E. “Gean” Leonard, Jr. Past sheriff 2001-2008 7
TX Galveston County Joe Max Taylor Past sheriff 1981-2000 19
TX Harris County Ed Gonzalez Incumbent 2017-present 0
TX Harris County Ron Hickman Past sheriff 2015-2017 2
TX Harris County Adrian Garcia Past sheriff 2009-2015 6
TX Harris County Tommy Thomas* Past sheriff 1995-2009 14
TX Hidalgo County J.E. “Eddie” Guerra Incumbent ?-present ?
TX Jefferson County Zena Stephens Incumbent 2017-present 0
TX Jefferson County Mitch Woods Past sheriff 1997-2016 19
TX Mclennan County Parnell McNamara Incumbent 2013-present 4
TX Mclennan County Larry Lynch Past sheriff 2000-2012 12
TX Mclennan County Robert K. Mitchell Past sheriff 2000-2000 0
TX Mclennan County Jack Harwell Past sheriff 1972-2000 28
TX Montgomery County Rand Henderson Incumbent ?-present ?
TX Nueces County Jim Kaelin Incumbent ?-present ?
TX Tarrant County Bill E. Waybourne Incumbent 2016-present 1
TX Tarrant County Dee Anderson Past sheriff 2001-2016 15
TX Tarrant County David E. Williams Past sheriff 1992-2001 9
TX Tarrant County Don Carpenter Past sheriff 1985-1992 7
TX Travis County Sally Hernandez Incumbent 2017-present 0
TX Travis County Greg Hamilton Past sheriff 2005-2017 12
TX Travis County Margo Fraiser Past sheriff 1996-2005 9
TX Travis County Terrence (Terry) M. Keel Past sheriff 1993-1996 3
TX Val Verde County Joe Frank Martinez Incumbent ?-present ?
UT Salt Lake County Jim Winder Incumbent 2006-present 11
UT Salt Lake County Aaron D. Kennard Past sheriff 1986-2002 16
VA Chesapeake City Jim O’Sullivan Incumbent ?-present ?
VA Fairfax County Stacey A. Kincald Incumbent 2014-present 3
VA Fairfax County Mark Stes Past sheriff 2013-2014 1
VA Fairfax County Stan Barry Past sheriff 2000-2013 13
VA Fairfax County Carl Peed Past sheriff 1989-2000 11
VA Fredericksburg City Paul W. Higgs Incumbent 1998-present 19
VA Fredericksburg City Phiip C. Robinson Past sheriff 1994-1998 4
VA Fredericksburg City Roland Oates Past sheriff 1985-1993 8
VA Fredericksburg City Claude A. Hughes Past sheriff 1972-1985 13
VA Halifax County Fred Scott Incumbent 2011-present 6
VA Halifax County Stanley L. Noblin Past sheriff 2008-2011 3
VA Halifax County D. Jeffrey Oakes* Past sheriff 1996-2008 12
VA Halifax County Eugene G. Short Past sheriff 1992-1996 4
VA Hopewell City Luther H. Sodat Jr Incumbent 2013-present 4
VA Hopewell City Greg L. Anderson Past sheriff 2005-2013 8
VA Hopewell City Paula N. Wyatt Past sheriff 2001-2005 4
VA Norfolk City Robert J. McCabe Incumbent 1994-present 23
VA Norfolk City David K. Mapp Past sheriff 1982-1993 11
VA Norfolk City Charles H. Leavitt Past sheriff 1958-1981 23
VA Norfolk City Hugh Lee Butler, Jr. Past sheriff 1955-1958 3
VA Portsmouth City William “Bill” Watson Incumbent 2006-present 11
VA Portsmouth City Gary W. Waters Past sheriff 1982-2005 23
VA Prince William-Manassas County Glendell Hill Incumbent 2004-present 13
VA Prince William-Manassas County E. Lee Stoffregeh, III Past sheriff 1996-2004 8
VA Prince William-Manassas County Wilson Carlin Garrison, Jr. Past sheriff 1984-1996 12
VA Prince William-Manassas County Carl Allen Rollins, Jr. Past sheriff 1971-1984 13
VA Pulaski County Doc Holladay Incumbent 2007-present 10
VA Richmond City C. T. Woody, Jr. Incumbent 2006-present 11
VA Richmond City Michelle B. Mitchell Past sheriff 1993-2006 13
VA Roanoke County Joseph E. Orange Incumbent 2016-present 1
VA Roanoke County Charles I. Poff, Jr. Past sheriff 2014-2015 1
VA Roanoke County Michael G. Winston Past sheriff 2010-2014 4
VA Roanoke County Gerald S. Holt Past sheriff 1992-2010 6
VA Virginia Beach City Ken Stolle Incumbent 2010-present 7
VA Virginia Beach City Paul Lanteigne Past sheriff 2000-2010 10
VA Virginia Beach City Frank Drew Past sheriff
VA Washington County Honorable Fred P. Newman Incumbent 2000-present 17
WA King County John Urquhart Incumbent 2013-present 4
WA King County Steve Strachan Past sheriff 2012-2012 0
WA King County Sue Rahr Past sheriff 2005-2012 7
WA King County Dave Reichert Past sheriff 1997-2005 8
WA Pierce County Paul Pastor Incumbent ?-present ?
WA Yakima County Brian Winter Incumbent 2015-present 2
WI Dane County David J. Mahoney Incumbent 2007-present 10
WI Dane County Gary Hamblin Past sheriff 1997-2007 10
WI Kenosha County David G. Beth Incumbent ?-present ?
WI Milwaukee County David A. Clarke, Jr. Incumbent 2002-present 15

(One unrelated point I stumbled across during this research was how often sheriffs were found guilty of crimes during or after their careers as sheriff, for offenses ranging from corruption and tax evasion to indecent exposure and murder. As an aid to future researchers, I flagged each of those sheriffs with an asterisk.)

Another way that sheriffs exercise political power is through campaign expenditures. I collected the data for the 13 largest counties that have elected sheriffs, plus Alameda County in California because of separate research we did on Sheriff Greg Ahern. This data was much harder to collect because it requires aggregating campaign finance reports for multiple time periods and multiple committees, but is a good starting point for exploring how much sheriffs’ elections cost:

Annual campaign expenditures by incumbent sheriffs and successful challengers

For the 13 largest jails run by an elected official — plus controversial Sheriff Thomas Hodgson — this table shows the sum of all campaign expenditures by the candidate and allied committees as far back as the data was readily available. To be sure, some counties are in more expensive media markets than others, and this table does not, by itself, say whether an incumbent faced a strong candidate in a particular year. I chose to only collect data for incumbent sheriffs and challengers who later went on to be successful. Other researchers should note that I tracked campaign expenditures, which can be different than campaign contributions.
State County Sheriff Year(s) Total Expenditures by year (combined committees) Status (Incumbent or challenger)
AZ Maricopa County Thomas J. Agnos 1988 $51,528 Incumbent
AZ Maricopa County Thomas J. Agnos 1989 $42 Incumbent
AZ Maricopa County Thomas J. Agnos 1990 $139 Incumbent
AZ Maricopa County Thomas J. Agnos 1991 $449 Incumbent
AZ Maricopa County Thomas J. Agnos 1992 $17,402 Incumbent
AZ Maricopa County Joe Arpaio 1992 $75,632 Challenger
AZ Maricopa County Joe Arpaio 1993 $1,500 Incumbent
AZ Maricopa County Joe Arpaio 1997 $17,128 Incumbent
AZ Maricopa County Joe Arpaio 1998 $4,669 Incumbent
AZ Maricopa County Joe Arpaio 1999 $25,537 Incumbent
AZ Maricopa County Joe Arpaio 2000 $91,673 Incumbent
AZ Maricopa County Joe Arpaio 2001 $1,949 Incumbent

AZ Maricopa County Joe Arpaio 2002 $125,702 Incumbent
AZ Maricopa County Joe Arpaio 2003 $17,276 Incumbent
AZ Maricopa County Joe Arpaio 2004 $231,356 Incumbent
AZ Maricopa County Joe Arpaio 2005 $1,019 Incumbent
AZ Maricopa County Joe Arpaio 2006 $391 Incumbent
AZ Maricopa County Joe Arpaio 2007 $47,334 Incumbent
AZ Maricopa County Joe Arpaio 2008 $560,832 Incumbent
AZ Maricopa County Joe Arpaio 2009 $356,208 Incumbent
AZ Maricopa County Joe Arpaio 2010 $1,572,348 Incumbent
AZ Maricopa County Joe Arpaio 2011 $560,571 Incumbent
AZ Maricopa County Paul Penzone 2012 $591,171 Challenger
AZ Maricopa County Joe Arpaio 2012 $5,716,960 Incumbent
AZ Maricopa County Paul Penzone 2013 $6,965 Challenger
AZ Maricopa County Joe Arpaio 2013 $2,128,101 Incumbent
AZ Maricopa County Joe Arpaio 2014 $1,283,359 Incumbent
AZ Maricopa County Joe Arpaio 2015 $1,327,483 Incumbent
AZ Maricopa County Paul Penzone 2016 $1,094,685 Challenger
AZ Maricopa County Joe Arpaio 2016 $7,906,472 Incumbent
AZ Maricopa County Paul Penzone 2017 $26,679 Incumbent
AZ Maricopa County Joe Arpaio 2017 $130,299 Challenger
AZ Maricopa County Joe Arpaio 1994-1996 $85,870 Incumbent
CA Alameda County Greg Ahern 2008 $56,402 Incumbent
CA Alameda County Greg Ahern 2009 $78,699 Incumbent
CA Alameda County Greg Ahern 2010 $110,687 Incumbent
CA Alameda County Greg Ahern 2011 $251,335 Incumbent
CA Alameda County Greg Ahern 2012 $56,096 Incumbent
CA Alameda County Greg Ahern 2013 $122,256 Incumbent
CA Los Angeles County Lee Baca 2004 $116,986 Incumbent
CA Los Angeles County Lee Baca 2005 $401,252 Incumbent
CA Los Angeles County Lee Baca 2006 $591,581 Incumbent
CA Los Angeles County Jim McDonnell 2014 $389,679 Challenger
CA Orange County Brad Gates 1974 $76,577 Challenger
CA Orange County Brad Gates 1976 $743 Incumbent
CA Orange County Brad Gates 1977 $33,610 Incumbent
CA Orange County Brad Gates 1978 $226,919 Incumbent
CA Orange County Brad Gates 1979 $28,670 Incumbent
CA Orange County Brad Gates 1980 $1,520 Incumbent
CA Orange County Brad Gates 1981 $42,618 Incumbent
CA Orange County Brad Gates 1982 $89,679 Incumbent
CA Orange County Brad Gates 1983 $41,165 Incumbent
CA Orange County Brad Gates 1984 $35,428 Incumbent
CA Orange County Brad Gates 1985 $52,401 Incumbent
CA Orange County Brad Gates 1986 $266,275 Incumbent
CA Orange County Brad Gates 1987 $96,226 Incumbent
CA Orange County Brad Gates 1988 $48,431 Incumbent
CA Orange County Brad Gates 1989 $61,911 Incumbent
CA Orange County Brad Gates 1990 $207,009 Incumbent
CA Orange County Brad Gates 1991 $74,645 Incumbent
CA Orange County Brad Gates 1992 $23,010 Incumbent
CA Orange County Brad Gates 1993 $10,878 Incumbent
CA Orange County Michael Corona 1994 $15,438 Challenger
CA Orange County Brad Gates 1994 $79,723 Incumbent
CA Orange County Brad Gates 1995 $17,522 Incumbent
CA Orange County Michael Corona 1996 $725 Challenger
CA Orange County Brad Gates 1996 $28,025 Incumbent
CA Orange County Brad Gates 1997 $11,512 Incumbent
CA Orange County Michael Corona 1997 $26,707 Challenger
CA Orange County Brad Gates 1998 $42,283 Incumbent
CA Orange County Michael Corona 1998 $492,949 Challenger
CA Orange County Michael Corona 1999 $113,658 Challenger
CA Orange County Michael Corona 2000 $84,633 Incumbent
CA Orange County Michael Corona 2001 $122,202 Incumbent
CA Orange County Michael Corona 2002 $87,866 Incumbent
CA Orange County Michael Corona 2003 $61,524 Incumbent
CA Orange County Michael Corona 2004 $91,049 Incumbent
CA Orange County Michael Corona 2005 $121,761 Incumbent
CA Orange County Michael Corona 2006 $1,105,747 Incumbent
CA Orange County Michael Corona 2007 $160,310 Incumbent
CA Orange County Sandra Hutchins 2008 $7,400 Challenger
CA Orange County Michael Corona 2008 $9,394 Incumbent
CA Orange County Michael Corona 2009 $1,356 Challenger
CA Orange County Sandra Hutchins 2009 $225,749 Incumbent
CA Orange County Sandra Hutchins 2010 $638,260 Incumbent
CA Orange County Sandra Hutchins 2011 $16,731 Incumbent
CA Orange County Sandra Hutchins 2012 $13,520 Incumbent
CA Orange County Sandra Hutchins 2013 $28,488 Incumbent
CA Orange County Sandra Hutchins 2014 $37,301 Incumbent
CA Orange County Sandra Hutchins 2015 $4,259 Incumbent
CA Orange County Sandra Hutchins 2016 $6,147 Incumbent
CA Sacramento County Scott Jones 2015 $129,089 Incumbent
CA Sacramento County Scott Jones 2016 $19,864 Incumbent
CA San Bernardino County Rod Hoops 2010 $206,819 Incumbent
CA San Bernardino County Rod Hoops 2011 $15,446 Incumbent
CA San Bernardino County Rod Hoops 2012 $79,188 Incumbent
CA San Bernardino County Rod Hoops 2013 $10,416 Incumbent
CA San Bernardino County John McMahon 2013 $70,427 Challenger
CA San Bernardino County John McMahon 2014 $288,657 Challenger
CA San Bernardino County John McMahon 2015 $18,319 Incumbent
CA San Bernardino County John McMahon 2016 $8,465 Incumbent
CA San Diego County William D. Gore 2013 $25,496 Incumbent
CA San Diego County William D. Gore 2014 $13,242 Incumbent
CA San Diego County William D. Gore 2015 $6,486 Incumbent
CA San Diego County William D. Gore 2016 $9,921 Incumbent
CA Santa Clara County Laurie Smith 2003 $4,218 Incumbent
CA Santa Clara County Laurie Smith 2004 $20,122 Incumbent
CA Santa Clara County Laurie Smith 2005 $29,473 Incumbent
CA Santa Clara County Laurie Smith 2006 $40,943 Incumbent
CA Santa Clara County Laurie Smith 2007 $2,718 Incumbent
CA Santa Clara County Laurie Smith 2008 $6,742 Incumbent
CA Santa Clara County Laurie Smith 2009 $30,730 Incumbent
CA Santa Clara County Laurie Smith 2010 $165,481 Incumbent
CA Santa Clara County Laurie Smith 2011 $2,652 Incumbent
CA Santa Clara County Laurie Smith 2012 $2,243 Incumbent
CA Santa Clara County Laurie Smith 2013 $4,017 Incumbent
CA Santa Clara County Laurie Smith 2014 $186,229 Incumbent
CA Santa Clara County Laurie Smith 2015 $14,484 Incumbent
CA Santa Clara County Laurie Smith 2016 $1,768 Incumbent
FL Broward County Scott J. Israel 2008 $590,109 Challenger
FL Broward County Al Lamberti 2008 $786,046 Incumbent
FL Broward County Al Lamberti 2011 $12,773 Incumbent
FL Broward County Scott J. Israel 2011 $34,140 Challenger
FL Broward County Scott J. Israel 2012 $157,074 Challenger
FL Broward County Al Lamberti 2012 $639,189 Incumbent
FL Broward County Scott J. Israel 2016 $325,910 Incumbent
IL Cook County Michael F. Sheahan 1990 $521,183 Challenger
IL Cook County Michael F. Sheahan 1991 $134,045 Incumbent
IL Cook County Michael F. Sheahan 1992 $103,938 Incumbent
IL Cook County Michael F. Sheahan 1993 $164,886 Incumbent
IL Cook County Michael F. Sheahan 1994 $468,783 Incumbent
IL Cook County Michael F. Sheahan 1995 $149,890 Incumbent
IL Cook County Michael F. Sheahan 1996 $177,896 Incumbent
IL Cook County Michael F. Sheahan 1997 $212,487 Incumbent
IL Cook County Michael F. Sheahan 1998 $901,739 Incumbent
IL Cook County Michael F. Sheahan 1999 $137,693 Incumbent
IL Cook County Michael F. Sheahan 2000 $170,715 Incumbent
IL Cook County Michael F. Sheahan 2001 $218,252 Incumbent
IL Cook County Michael F. Sheahan 2002 $408,687 Incumbent
IL Cook County Michael F. Sheahan 2003 $316,126 Incumbent
IL Cook County Michael F. Sheahan 2004 $318,837 Incumbent
IL Cook County Thomas Dart 2005 $22,372 Incumbent
IL Cook County Michael F. Sheahan 2005 $522,153 Incumbent
IL Cook County Michael F. Sheahan 2006 $192,209 Incumbent
IL Cook County Thomas Dart 2006 $704,998 Challenger
IL Cook County Michael F. Sheahan 2007 $54,092 Incumbent
IL Cook County Thomas Dart 2007 $105,294 Challenger
IL Cook County Thomas Dart 2008 $116,437 Challenger
IL Cook County Michael F. Sheahan 2008 $902,443 Incumbent
IL Cook County Michael F. Sheahan 2009 $39,617 Incumbent
IL Cook County Thomas Dart 2009 $146,047 Challenger
IL Cook County Michael F. Sheahan 2010 $37,941 Incumbent
IL Cook County Thomas Dart 2010 $333,925 Challenger
IL Cook County Michael F. Sheahan 2011 $84,201 Challenger
IL Cook County Thomas Dart 2011 $90,658 Incumbent
IL Cook County Thomas Dart 2012 $84,318 Incumbent
IL Cook County Thomas Dart 2013 $91,234 Incumbent
IL Cook County Thomas Dart 2014 $104,443 Incumbent
IL Cook County Thomas Dart 2015 $40,071 Incumbent
IL Cook County Thomas Dart 2016 $66,603 Incumbent
IL Cook County Thomas Dart 2017 $6,949 Incumbent
PA Philadelphia City John Green 2006 $38,385 Incumbent
PA Philadelphia City John Green 2007 $185,587 Incumbent
PA Philadelphia City John Green 2008 $39,876 Incumbent
PA Philadelphia City John Green 2009 $14,997 Incumbent
PA Philadelphia City John Green 2010 $3,171 Incumbent
PA Philadelphia City Jewell Williams 2011 $108,027 Challenger
PA Philadelphia City Jewell Williams 2012 $45,805 Challenger
PA Philadelphia City Jewell Williams 2013 $32,092 Incumbent
PA Philadelphia City Jewell Williams 2014 $66,878 Incumbent
PA Philadelphia City Jewell Williams 2015 $78,233 Incumbent
PA Philadelphia City Jewell Williams 2016 $44,503 Incumbent
TX Bexar County Susan Pamerleau 2012 $106,811 Challenger
TX Bexar County Susan Pamerleau 2013 $34,147 Challenger
TX Bexar County Susan Pamerleau 2014 $42,424 Incumbent
TX Bexar County Javier Salazar 2015 $21,733 Challenger
TX Bexar County Susan Pamerleau 2015 $66,471 Incumbent
TX Bexar County Javier Salazar 2016 $243,492 Challenger
TX Bexar County Susan Pamerleau 2016 $472,152 Incumbent
TX Dallas County Lupe Valdez 2014 $15,621 Incumbent
TX Dallas County Lupe Valdez 2015 $26,148 Incumbent
TX Dallas County Lupe Valdez 2016 $34,329 Incumbent
TX Harris County Adrian Garcia 2008 $707,931 Challenger
TX Harris County Tommy Thomas 2008 $822,828 Incumbent
TX Harris County Tommy Thomas 2009 $17,663 Incumbent
TX Harris County Adrian Garcia 2009 $212,609 Challenger
TX Harris County Tommy Thomas 2010 $19,937 Challenger
TX Harris County Adrian Garcia 2010 $74,919 Incumbent
TX Harris County Tommy Thomas 2011 $10,093 Challenger
TX Harris County Adrian Garcia 2011 $68,474 Incumbent
TX Harris County Adrian Garcia 2012 $201,542 Incumbent
TX Harris County Adrian Garcia 2013 $196,715 Incumbent
TX Harris County Adrian Garcia 2014 $454,199 Incumbent
TX Harris County Ed Gonzalez 2015 $20,836 Challenger
TX Harris County Ron Hickman 2015 $119,752 Challenger
TX Harris County Adrian Garcia 2015 $174,328 Incumbent
TX Harris County Adrian Garcia 2016 $5,729 Challenger
TX Harris County Ed Gonzalez 2016 $499,252 Challenger
TX Harris County Ron Hickman 2016 $909,226 Incumbent

The biggest expenditures came from Sheriff Joe Arpaio who spent $22 million over the course of his career. In the most recent 2016 election, Arpaio spent 8 times as much as challenger Paul Penzone, and lost. Even taking into account more “modest” campaigns, the average expenditures of a sheriff over his/her career is nearly 2 million dollars and just looking at a single four year campaign cycle, average expenditures top $600,000.

Now of course, expenditures will vary for lots of reasons, including the expenses of a given media market, whether there is a well-heeled opponent, and so forth. Hopefully, this chart serves as a starting point for a discussion of whether and how to hold sheriffs more accountable.

by Elliot Oberholtzer, August 23, 2017

In a recent post, I noted that disabled people1 are significantly overrepresented in prisons and jails. This statistic is part of a larger pattern: disabled people are overrepresented in all interactions with the criminal justice system, and at all points, that system is failing them.

The Center for American Progress released a report last year that provides a strong overview of the ways that disabled people are targeted by — and failed by — the criminal justice system, from policing to courts to incarceration. In this article, I will bring in additional information and context to elaborate on the points made in that report.

Police escalate to deadly force

Disabled people represent a disproportionate number of those stopped, arrested, and murdered by police. This is partially because, as the ACLU of Southern California and the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law report, the “war on drugs” and other mass incarceration policies criminalize behaviors related to disability: substance use (which is often a method of self-medication for pain and other symptoms), homelessness (as of 2015, the Department of Housing and Urban Development estimated that 78% of people in shelters had a disability), and atypical reactions to social cues (which may be interpreted as “disorderly conduct”). Societal attitudes towards disabled people, and the intersections of disability, race, and class, contribute to their criminalization: the Ruderman Foundation reports that in police use-of-force incidents, media and police often blame disabled people for their own victimization, especially by characterizing disabled people of color as “threatening” and “refusing to comply” with instructions.

The police are often the first responders to a person in crisis. In 2015, the Washington Post reported that 124 cases of officer shootings (27% of all officer shootings that year) involved a mental health crisis; in 36% of those cases, the officers were explicitly called to help the person get medical treatment, and shot them instead. Despite their frequent role in mental health crises, police response is deeply inadequate, and experts agree that not only do police need better training, but their role in crisis response needs to be entirely reconsidered.

As long as we continue to rely on militarized police forces to handle crises, instead of social workers, mental health response teams, and other trained professionals, police will continue to escalate situations to deadly force. And disabled people, specifically disabled people of color, will continue to lose their lives.

Courts refuse accommodations

If disabled people survive their encounter with the police, they are also disadvantaged by the court system. Disabled people struggle to access the services necessary to make the court system intelligible to them: in 2014, a Deaf man whose first language was Ethiopian Sign Language was denied an interpreter in his court cases and in jail, leading to six weeks of jail time for a crime he did not commit (Washington Post). This incident is by no means unique: the Center for American Progress reports that “a lack of accessibility and a failure to provide needed accommodations are widespread throughout the nation’s courts.”

Given the data showing that disabled people experience violent victimization at significantly higher rates than non-disabled people, the failure of accessibility in our courts is not only a concern for disabled people charged with crimes, but also for disabled people who want to use the courts to address offenses against them. A 2015 survey of New York City courts found multiple barriers to equal participation for disabled litigants, jurors, attorneys, and court employees, as well as criminal defendants. And as the Supreme Court observed in 2004, “failure to accommodate persons with disabilities will often have the same practical effect as outright exclusion.”

There is also evidence to suggest that the court system may not be the right way to handle the majority of disabled people’s offenses at all. Alternatives such as mental health courts, which include access to mental health care before appearing in court, have been shown in California to improve quality of life, decrease psychological distress, and reduce recidivism among mentally ill offenders when compared to traditional courts. Similarly, Portugal’s “dissuasion commission” model of handling drug possession/consumption offenses, which involves a case team of health, social service, and legal professionals who work together to provide addiction counseling and assess treatment options, has been shown to significantly reduce substance dependency, risky behaviors such as injection (which can lead to transmission of HIV/AIDS), and substance-related deaths.

For those disabled people who do need to interact with the courts, they deserve the treatment that the United States has committed to providing in the Bill of Rights: a speedy trial, legal representation, and to be informed of the nature and causes of the accusations against them. When courts fail to provide these basic rights for disabled people accused of crimes, they demonstrate clearly that our society treats disabled people as second-class citizens.

Jails function as inadequate hospitals

When disabled people are detained in jails awaiting trial or transfer to a medical facility, they are denied access to medical care, which can worsen existing health problems (including mental health crises). This can be life-threatening or even fatal: the top cause of death in local jails is suicide, which occurs in jail at much higher rates than in the general U.S. population. In 2016, Public Citizen and the Treatment Advocacy Center reported that 91% of surveyed jail personnel said that they had seriously mentally ill prisoners who required a suicide watch.

Although jails are being used as substitutes for mental health facilities, they do not have the resources or training to handle medical and mental health emergencies. Less than half (45%) of the surveyed personnel in the Public Citizen and Treatment Advocacy Center study reported that their jail was equipped to offer mental health treatment. When asked what their resources were to handle a psychiatric emergency, respondents said they had none, or that they transported prisoners to the emergency room. Despite 95% of respondents reporting that their jails frequently housed mentally ill people, only 21% reported their jail having any kind of program to support mentally ill people upon their release.

Our justice system currently incarcerates, mostly in local jails, large numbers of people who have not been convicted — or sometimes even charged — with a crime. Pretrial incarceration, which almost universally affects those who cannot afford to pay bail, has been shown to increase the likelihood of conviction regardless of the merits of the particular case; a clear undermining of the concept of a fair trial. And many disabled people housed in local jails (and experiencing the trauma of that incarceration) are not even awaiting trial; they are simply awaiting a transfer to an overcrowded hospital or other health facility. Currently the systems of pretrial incarceration and using jails as holding cells for hospital transfer are inflicting damage on disabled people, who need targeted services instead.

Prisons abuse and isolate their disabled populations

Disabled people are also disproportionately incarcerated in state and federal prisons. According to the Center for American Progress, people in state and federal prisons are three times more likely than the general population to report having at least one disability. In a 2012 Bureau of Justice Statistics report, 40% of state and federal prisoners reported currently having a chronic illness, a significantly higher rate than the general population. (While not everyone with a chronic illness considers themself disabled, many chronic illnesses cause serious inabilities to complete necessary tasks; for example, about 44% of people with arthritis report that it limits their ability to do things like climb a flight of stairs, bend over, or grasp small objects).

Medical care for these conditions is inconsistent: while two-thirds of participants in the BJS study were being treated, 11% reported that their illness was not being treated because the facility would not provide medication. The Amplifying Voices of Inmates with Disabilities (AVID) Prison Project reports cases of prisons ruling accommodations such as exercise equipment, specialized diets, prosthetics, wheelchairs, and other assistive technology no longer “medically necessary” for disabled people in an effort to cut costs. And with medical co-pays costing as much as a month’s worth of labor in some states, including states where prosthetics and other accommodations for disability incur an additional fee on top of an existing co-pay, many disabled people in prisons simply cannot afford to access the care they need.

Denying medical care is not the only abuse of disabled people in prison. Human Rights Watch suggests that use of force abuses against disabled people in prisons is “widespread and may be increasing”. The AVID Prison Project reports that disabled people in prison, particularly those with mental illnesses, are disproportionately disciplined with segregation and solitary confinement, which have been linked to suicide, self-harm, and other serious mental health consequences. Incarcerated people are a particularly vulnerable population to malpractice and abuse of authority: they have little or no ability to leave a bad situation or demand better treatment. Already in a position of deeply unequal power simply by being incarcerated, disabled people in prison are then further disadvantaged by systemic ableism.

Inadequate re-entry support undermines opportunities

The AVID Prison Project also reports that disabled people are often denied access to vocational and release planning programs while incarcerated, or placed in programs without accommodations for their disabilities. “The way it is now, I’m just basically going back out there with no skills,” said one man from Washington with a visual impairment; his facility had placed him in a community college course without giving him the visual aids he needed to keep up with the class. Another person reported that they had asked for information on how to apply for Social Security benefits once released, and been denied because their counselor thought they should seek employment instead.

Incarcerated people already face significant barriers upon re-entering society, including housing restrictions, employment discrimination, and ongoing fines and fees that represent a significant financial burden. When those difficulties are compounded by disability — especially if that disability has been worsened by neglect and abuse while incarcerated — a disabled person attempting to re-enter society after a prison stay faces almost insurmountable obstacles.


The Center for American Progress has compiled a list of recommendations for improving how disabled people interact with criminal justice systems:

The Center for American Progress has compiled a list of recommendations for improving how disabled people interact with criminal justice systems:

  • Invest in community-based services, such as outpatient treatment, peer support, case management, supportive housing, and mobile crisis teams.
  • End the criminalization of homelessness.
  • Divert disabled people from jail and courts systems to community-based services as soon as possible.
  • Improve police practices and expand training, with a focus on de-escalation tactics and trainings led by disabled people.
  • Ensure accessibility, needed accommodations, and appropriate treatment within the court system, including training for court personnel and specialized public defender units.
  • Ensure safe, accessible, and appropriate conditions behind bars, including designated ADA coordinators at all facilities, comprehensive health care (including mental health care) for all inmates, and policies to prevent use of force and sexual assault.
  • Support successful re-entry, including provision of accessible education and training behind bars, support in accessing Medicaid and other benefits,and physical and programmatic accessibility of halfway houses.

At every interaction between disabled people and the criminal justice system, it is evident how ill-suited the system is to respect disabled people’s needs. Along with widespread reform of our courts and institutions, we need to shift from viewing disabled people in crisis through a criminalization and incarceration lens to a community health approach.


A note about language

  1. This article uses “disabled person/people” as the term of choice, sometimes called identity-first language. I respect the right of any person to choose how they want to be referred to, but when speaking about disabled people as a broad category, I have decided to adhere to the social model of disability, acknowledging that disabled people are disabled by societal ableism, and that their bodies and abilities are not inherently less.  ↩

August 17, 2017

President Trump’s push for tougher policing is dangerous for Black and Latino communities, who bore the brunt of police use of force under stop-and-frisk in New York.

Easthampton, Mass. – Donald Trump’s presidency has heralded a return to ineffective “tough on crime” tactics, including the police practice of stop-and-frisk, but a new report by the Prison Policy Initiative finds that such a move would be disastrous for Black and Latino communities. “Instead of making cities safer, stop-and-frisk causes thousands of forceful and terrifying experiences with police, mostly for people of color who’ve done absolutely nothing wrong,” charges Rose Lenehan, author of the report.

In What “Stop-and-Frisk” Really Means: Discrimination & Use of Force, Lenehan analyzes the racially disparate use of force in police stops in New York City in 2011. That year was the peak of stop-and-frisk in the city, and two years before a federal judge found that the practice was racially discriminatory and violated the rights of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. “We all know that stop-and-frisk targeted Black and Latino communities in New York, but that goes beyond who police chose to stop,” explains Lenehan. “Police were also more likely to use physical force when they stopped people of color than when they stopped white people.” Data graphic showing the numbers of Blacks/Latinos, Whites and people of other races and ethnicities stopped by the New York City Police in 2011, along with whether they were also frisked and whether force was used. Blacks and Latinos are dispropionately stopped, frisked and have forced used against them.

In 2011, the NYPD stopped Black and Latino people nearly 575,000 times and used physical force against them almost 130,000 times. That’s 84% of all stops and 88% of all force used in stops that year. Yet despite President Trump’s mistaken perception that “it was so incredible, the way it worked,” only a small number of weapons were seized in these stops – mostly knives. Police found weapons in only 1% of stops of Black and Latino residents, but found weapons nearly twice as often when they stopped Whites. As the new report argues, stop-and-frisk succeeds only in alienating vast numbers of city residents from the police, and ultimately creates more problems for public safety.

The report features an innovative data visualization that layers each successive level of police encounters – stops, frisks, and use of force – to show racial discrimination impacts decisions more serious than simple stops. The graphic is drawn to scale (a tiny square is equivalent to 100 New Yorkers) to illustrate the massive impact of stop-and-frisk on the street. According to Lenehan, “With roughly almost 2,000 stops per day, concentrated in Black and Latino communities, stop-and-frisk gave hundreds of thousands of people of color reason to distrust the police.”

The non-profit non-partisan Prison Policy Initiative was founded in 2001 to expose the broader harm of mass criminalization and spark advocacy campaigns to create a more just society. The organization produces big-picture data publications like Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie to help people fully engage in criminal justice reform. The author, Rose Lenehan, is a PhD candidate at MIT and a member of the Prison Policy Initiative’s Young Professional Network.

The new report is available at


by Stephen Raher, August 15, 2017

Yesterday we filed comments with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to point out how their recently proposed amendments would inadvertently impact their regulation of financially abusive “release cards.” Release cards are prepaid debit cards that prisons and jails use (instead of checks or cash) to refund money that is owed to someone upon their release from custody (for example, accumulated wages from a prison job, or money that a person had in their possession at the time of arrest). Such cards usually cost the correctional facility nothing, but the issuing financial institution makes money by charging numerous excessive fees to the cardholder.

In 2015, the CFPB conducted a rulemaking to create greater protections for all types of prepaid cards. Prison Policy Initiative submitted comments asking the CFPB to prevent correctional facilities from forcing someone to accept a release payment in the form of a prepaid card. Although the CFPB did not adopt this recommendation, it did issue a comprehensive new rule in 2016, and in the process clarified that release cards are covered by many other consumer-protection provisions of that rule.

In June of this year, the CFPB proposed some housekeeping amendments to the 2016 rule. Although these changes are well-intentioned, we spotted some loopholes that could have unintended adverse impacts on release-card recipients. For example, the 2016 rule requires card companies to provide protections for people whose cards are subject to fraudulent use. The financial industry asked that these protections only apply if cardholders first verify their identity with the issuing bank, and the CFPB agreed to propose such a modification. This may make sense in the case of a prepaid card that someone buys at a convenience store, because the card-issuing bank has no idea who their customer is. On the other hand, when someone is released from prison and given a prepaid card, that person’s identity is already established. Forcing that person to sit on hold or go to a website to register the card makes no sense, and we pointed this out in comments we filed this week with the CFPB. Our concerns were echoed in a comment submitted jointly by the Americans for Financial Reform, the Center for Responsible Lending, the Center for Digital Democracy, Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization arm of Consumer Reports, the National Consumer Law Center, U.S. PIRG, and the Woodstock Institute.

We also used this opportunity to once again urge the CFPB to conduct a broader proceeding to draft rules targeting the wide variety of unfair financial products (like money transfer services) that are forced on incarcerated people and their families.

There is no definite timeline for the current rulemaking, but the rules that were originally issued in 2016 are due to become effective in April 2018. Presumably the CFPB will make a decision on the current round of amendments sometime before the effective date.

by Alex Clark and Joshua Aiken, August 11, 2017

A Call of Duty video game, a cashier’s check for 34 cents, and 12 cans of peas. Recent analysis by C.J. Ciaramella at Reason and the Lucy Parsons Lab reveals these items as “lucrative” assets seized from poor Chicago neighborhoods.

Since 2012, the Cook County police have conducted 23,000 seizures of assets connected to civil and criminal cases — about 75% of which took place in Chicago. Asset forfeiture is often justified as a way for law enforcement to disrupt illegal drug trades: it allows officials to confiscate the property of people associated with a criminal offense even if the person who owns that property is never convicted of a crime. However, this data reveals police officers are confiscating petty property, mostly from poorer Black neighborhoods. Nearly half of the seizures were for amounts less than $1,000. Asset forfeiture is a tool targeted at major illegal drug trades; property worth a few hundred dollars should rarely account for seizures, let alone half of total assets. Furthermore, when you look at seizures valued under $100, they are geographically clustered in the South and West sides of Chicago with predominantly poor and Black communities.

This is the most recent example proving that at all levels, the War on Drugs functions as a war on communities of color. Nearly half a million people are behind bars for drug offenses and while white people and people of color use drugs as similar rates, people of color are more likely to be arrested, convicted, and locked away. In Chicago, racial disparities still exist even after possession of small amounts of marijuana was decriminalized in 2012.

While President Trump has threatened to “send in the feds” with regards to crime in Chicago, when it comes to drug enforcement, we already have. On top of the state asset forfeiture practices which “exacerbate hardship” for the poor and people of color, sting operations have been targeting similar groups for years, setting them up to fail. A report last year from Columbia Professor Jeffrey Fagan traced drug stings by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). Since 2003, these stings set up fake drug stash houses and lured people into committing new crimes.

This is how the stings work: agents would identify individuals suspected of violent crimes and tell them that there was a stash of drugs and money at a local residence. Agents would then provide individuals with guns, cars, and other resources to steal the (nonexistent) drugs and (nonexistent) money and would tell targeted individuals to enlist their friends to assist in the burglary. When people arrived at the stash house, Bureau officials would arrest them and charge them with conspiracy to possess drugs with intent to distribute. Fagan’s study looked at individuals who would be eligible targets for recruitment according to the Bureau, and compared them against the people agents actually singled out. He found that: no statistical explanation except disparate racial treatment makes sense.

  • At least 91% of the time agents targeted Black and Latino people.
  • Three different tests for disparate racial treatment indicated that “race remains a statistically significant predictor of selection as a Stash House defendant.”
  • The probability that only one white person would be selected of the fifty-seven individuals from 2011-2013 is less than 0.1%.
  • Black and Latino people are so overrepresented, no statistical explanation except disparate racial treatment makes sense.

What is most alarming about drug stings and asset forfeiture is that they have been justified as ways to protect communities. However, a District Court judge described the ATF’s sting cases as the government “ensnaring chronically unemployed individuals from poverty-ridden areas.” Because agents have targeted Black and Latino people, communities have less reason to trust or assist law enforcement, and remain trapped in a cycle of poverty and incarceration. With 2016 being Chicago’s “deadliest year” and as the city’s racial and economic disparity remains stagnant, or in some cases increases, the need for reform is dire.

With the passage of House Bill 303, currently sitting on Governor Rauner’s desk, Illinois could make huge strides in civil asset forfeiture as the bill requires greater transparency and an increased burden of proof. Attorney General Sessions has made recent efforts to undermine state reforms in this area, but HB 303 passed with only one “no” vote in the Illinois State Senate. Hopefully, this signals Illinois will continue making unjust civil asset forfeiture a thing of the past.

And just as advocates are calling for greater oversight in Illinois, the ATF is being criticized for inadequate oversight and lacking direction. In a recent St. Louis sting, agents reported they were given no written direction on how to run their storefront operation, and the Chicago sting report stated that in some cases, informants said they chose targets after simply meeting them on the street. These approaches tear people away from their community by putting them behind bars and show little public safety gains. Instead of the government going out of its way to set people up for failure, policymakers could take alternative job and education approaches to give them a chance to succeed. Likewise, Chicago can still emphasize the resilience of the city, its communities, and probable good intentions of individual police officers in tandem with reform. There are other ways to keep people safe, investigate cases, and achieve justice. None of those ways involve taking 12 cans of peas.

by Lucius Couloute, August 9, 2017

Correctional facilities that implement video calling technology typically argue that they are providing a better way for families to stay in touch. But as our national research shows, the introduction of this technology almost always signals a roll back of in-person visits and a new way of extracting profits from captive consumers.

One of the many grassroots organizations organizing around the harms of the video “visitation” racket is the Durham Inside-Outside Alliance; their blog is a must-read for people working on this issue in other states. In particular, it highlights the voices of incarcerated people who are reshaping the debate around poorly functioning and expensive video calling technology.

Here’s what incarcerated people have to say:

“About this (video) visitation, I think it’s bogus because a lot of parents come to visit their kids and the only way they know that they are fine is through a real visit. Seeing and knowing that they’re fine. You can’t tell through a phone visit, that doesn’t give that fist bump, that ‘I love you’ smile, or that one moment where you gotta shed that tear and the person on the other side of the glass tells you, ‘Hey, don’t worry, it’s gonna be ok…’”

Another person goes on to say:

“All of my family and friends live 2-3 hours away! So the few that are able to come see me drive all that way to see me for 20 minutes! Could you imagine driving that far to sit in front of a video screen instead of actually seeing their loved one in person?!”

Going to jail can be a terrifying experience; it separates people from their homes, jobs, friends, family, and freedom. The risk of unnatural death skyrockets in jail, due in part to the shocking disconnection from ordinary life that an abrupt period of incarceration can cause. Keeping in contact with loved ones can be one of the very few ways in which incarcerated people make it through; and as these quotes suggest, replacing in-person visits with substandard video chatting just isn’t good enough.

“The jail claims that they’re not going to do away with our face-to-face visits, that they added the video visits to give us more time with our family, in other words it’s [supposed] to be a win-win for us. Damn shame! They got a lie for every question people throw at them. If it was all about us getting more visits with our family, then why not give us face to face visits all throughout the week instead of spending money on all this new equipment? […] Them guards get to go home […] We don’t…”

And as another individual put it:

“What is the purpose of video visitation? The Sheriff claims it’s only an alternative – not a replacement – to face-to-face visits. If that’s true, then it would be advantageous to those who live hundreds of miles away and out of state, provided they can utilize Skype or some other home computer video to implement such visits.

I believe most detainees’ families live in or near Durham. If these family members are relegated to coming to the jail, only to sit before a monitor downstairs to see and communicate with us through another monitor upstairs, that would be a travesty of justice, an unnecessary invasion of privacy on our visits, and a waste of tax dollars.

Instinct and history tells me that video visitation is not going to be an alternative form of visitation. Rather, due time, face-to-face visits will be phased out to give the Sheriff a captive audience to charge exorbitant fees for visits. Otherwise, why try to fix what’s not broken? For the most part, detainees in jail have not been convicted of any crime. Under our system of jurisprudence, we are supposed to be deemed innocent until we are proven guilty. But in reality, this jail treats us in opposite fashion with this Board’s seal of approval.”

The incarcerated people writing to the Durham Inside-Outside Alliance are right to be concerned that in-person visits will be eliminated after the installation of video terminals. While some jails add off-site video calling to supplement in-person visitation, the only reason that jails build on-site video calling booths is so they can then ban traditional in-person visits. Correctional staff might not see the problem with preventing incarcerated people from seeing their loved ones in person, but for those behind bars who can’t go home at night, it means everything to them.

So what about the jail’s argument that video calls give incarcerated people more time with their families? Existing evidence says the opposite is more likely to be true. A survey conducted by Travis County (TX) Sheriff’s Office after they changed to video-only “visitation”, found that 91% of visitors reported that they would prefer face-to-face visitation. In fact, our analysis found that “visits” decreased by 28% after the sheriff banned in-person visitation. The simple truth is that replacing in person visits with poorly functioning video calling systems makes it harder – not easier – for families to maintain relationships.

Incarcerated people want to be able to communicate with their loved ones in a calm and comfortable environment because it helps maintain connections that will eventually aid in the reentry process. Forcing them to speak with visitors using video terminals placed in public areas only inhibits successful reentry.

If policymakers are legitimately concerned about making the transition out of correctional facilities as smooth as possible, they must incorporate the visitation-related concerns of incarcerated people. Because sometimes, the best answers are staring right back at us (and hopefully not through grainy video screens).

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  • May 15, 2018:
    Our Policy Analyst Lucius Couloute will be at the LEDA Summit on Race and Inclusion in Holland, Michigan, presenting his research on the challenges and disadvantages people face when they are released from prison. Tickets are available on LEDA’s website.

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