Metro Corrections.jpg

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Metro Corrections, which has had overcrowding issues for years, is currently at its lowest daily inmate population in recent memory, and the local courts are launching a new effort to clear out even more inmates to combat spreading of the highly contagious coronavirus.

Since last week, 181 inmates have been released, lowering the jail population to 1,629 as of Monday, one of the few times in several years it has been below the building capacity of 1,800.

The jail population just a month ago was about 1,900 inmates. 

And on Saturday, Jefferson district court judges will hold a special docket to review motions to release more people on lower bonds and grant “shock” probation to defendants who have already been convicted and are serving time.

Shock probation is available, generally, for non-violent offenders who, after serving some time incarcerated, can argue they have essentially been "shocked straight" by the experience, learned their lesson and should be released. 

The hearings Saturday will be held by video with a judge setting up in a district courtroom. The Saturday dockets will be held as often as needed, according to sources. 

Currently, the courts are mostly closed until April 10. 

The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, Public Defenders Office, Jefferson County Attorney’s Office, private attorneys and Metro Corrections leaders have already been reviewing lists of potential releases to mutually decide which inmates qualify to be released on non-cash bail or on the Home Incarceration Project.

The new district court docket is to settle cases where the defense and prosecution have been unable to agree on terms of release. 

Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine said there is not a special docket for circuit court cases, which involve more serious felonies, but prosecutors are working closely with defense lawyers to release as many non-violent inmates as possible. 

There have been no reported coronavirus cases in Metro Corrections, but social distancing is an impossibility, and local and state leaders have said they want to prevent what could be a potential disaster if the novel coronavirus started to spread quickly in jails. 

In recent years, the daily inmate population has often climbed above 2,000, prompting jail officials to move inmates to an unsafe and illegal 1950s-era jail above the Louisville Metro Police Department headquarters. 

The current inmate population represents "the lowest numbers I've seen in our operation since I began my career here in 2000," said Tracy Dotson, spokesman for the jail's Fraternal Order of Police union.

Dotson said the decrease is due to "smart, forward thinking on public safety from our judicial partners as well as local law enforcement agencies. 

"Stacking human beings on top of each other during a pandemic is especially hazardous to our officers working inside the jail, as well as the inmates they manage."

Copyright 2020 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.

Digital Reporter

Jason Riley is a criminal justice reporter for WDRB.com. He joined WDRB News in 2013 after 14 years with The Courier-Journal. He graduated from Western Kentucky University. Jason can be reached at 502-585-0823 and jriley@wdrb.com.