Date of Conferral
Public Policy and Administration
For the past several decades, the county jail in a large metropolitan city in the southeast United States has been overcrowded, which has resulted in violence within the jail, excessive costs to the Sheriff's Office, and a requirement of Federal oversight of the jail from 2005 to 2015. In spite of these events, little is understood about why jail overcrowding is prevalent in the county and what impacts overcrowding may have on the communities around the jail. Using Shaw and McKay's social disorganization theory as the foundation, the purpose of this case study was to understand the unique circumstances around in the geographic region that may contribute to overcrowding in order to avoid the risk of future federal government intervention. Data were collected through interviews with jail administrators and staff, commissioners, and judges. Additionally, publicly available data related to the operations of the jail were collected. These data were inductively coded and then subjected to a thematic analysis procedure. Key findings identified the primary causes of overcrowding to include increases in the number of correctional clients with mental health problems, increases in the number of youthful offenders, and deficiencies in capacity at the primary jail facility that has not kept pace with population changes in the county. Positive social change implications include recommendations to jail administrators and lawmakers to use statutory authority to alleviate some of the problems in and around the jail facility. These recommendations may reduce the financial and legal risk for the county and promote public safety both within and outside the jail.