It's a fine time to be a prisoner in the Cache County Jail.
Ever since the U.S. District Court slapped an injunction on the jail limiting the number of prisoners that could be kept there, minor offenders have been released early.Cache County Deputy Lt. George Becker drove back to the jail the day the injunction was imposed and released 25 prisoners right off the bat to meet the 45-prisoner cap the court imposed.
That was December.
"It's part of the daily routine now," he said. "I let people go every morning."
Becker reviews the jail census each day at 9 a.m. If it is over 45, he meets with the Cache County attorney and a representative from Adult Probation and Parole and decides who gets to go home early.
"I haven't had to cut anybody's sentence drastically or release any felons," he said.
Becker stressed that only those serving time for minor offenses are set free early.
U.S. District Judge David Sam made Becker's job a little easier this week when he revised the preliminary injunction, allowing the jail to house five additional prisoners on weekends. Previously, the jail could house only 50 prisoners on weekends.
Sam revised the injunction after the county added five officers at the jail, built a new recreation area and laundry and put in extra showers and fire escapes.
Despite the improvements, the weekday count must remain at 45.
Prisoners at the jail filed a class action suit against the county in November, alleging the jail was overcrowded and failed to meet health and safety codes.
The prisoners sought $500 per prisoner per day from the county in actual damages and $1,000 per prisoner per day in punitive damages.
But they will probably settle for a decent basketball court and some breathing room.
"We are accomplishing what we want: improved conditions at the jail," said Brian Barnard, attorney for the prisoners. "If we can do that without further litigation, great."
The suit included a request for a preliminary injunction capping the jail population at 39 - the number it was designed to house. The jail census often rose as high as 70, the November suit claimed.
A May 1989 report prepared for the Cache County Commission estimated that the jail population would soar to more than 100 by 1995.