Boulder officials and Sheriff Joe Pelle have reached an agreement under which municipal offenders could be released early or moved to other jurisdictions at city expense when the county jail is at capacity.

The Boulder City Council will take its first vote Tuesday night on the intergovernmental agreement, which Pelle said he hopes to use as a model for a similar agreement with Longmont.

A second vote and public hearing will take place in August.

The agreement comes as Boulder has reinstituted the possibility of jail time for first-time municipal offenders and asked for longer jail sentences for crimes committed in "high-impact" areas like the municipal campus.

However, Pelle said municipal offenders are a relatively small part of the total jail population and the agreement is about ensuring he can manage the jail population effectively.

If you go

What: Boulder City Council

When: 6 p.m. Tuesday; there is a 5 p.m. flood recovery update before the regular meeting

Where: Boulder Municipal Building, 1777 Broadway

Info: To read the memo on the jail agreement and see the rest of the agenda, go to bit.ly/1kEgTbv.

The Boulder County Jail can hold 536 people and regularly has more than 500 during the summer, when arrests rise.


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And that capacity is not evenly distributed. For example, the women's section might be over capacity while there are still beds in the men's section.

Pelle said municipal prisoners usually don't account for more than 15 or 20 people out of the total, but one of those prisoners might be the most appropriate person to move to another county's jail or schedule for early release.

"It's not a lot of people in the total population, but some days, you need a bed," he said.

Pelle said the sheriff's office also does not send inmates with mental health issues or other serious health problems, or inmates awaiting trial, to other jurisdictions.

Emergency measure

The agreement calls for the Boulder County Jail to continue to house municipal prisoners without charging the city, unless the jail needs to move prisoners to another facility. Then the city would pay the daily rate that Boulder County is charged for those inmates. The amount is capped at $10,000 a year.

The agreement also says that municipal prisoners would be moved in rough proportion to their share of the total jail population.

Furthermore, the agreement allows Pelle to release non-violent municipal offenders who are near the end of their sentences early, provided the municipal court judge agrees.

The jail already has the ability to move and release inmates early who are convicted of state crimes through county and district court.

"What I am seeking is a way to manage the emergency crowding relief that we would do with county and state prisoners," he said. "I want to be able to handle municipal prisoners in the same way, either house them in another county or release them early."

Pelle said the jail has not released prisoners early since 2004.

"We see it as an emergency measure because it interferes with the discretion of the court (with regard to sentencing)," he said. "It is a last resort, but it is a last resort we need to have."

Small part of city strategy

Boulder spokeswoman Sarah Huntley said the city attorney's office supports the agreement in part due to the requirement that any early release be reviewed by a municipal court judge, who would be familiar with the details of that case and that inmate.

The majority of municipal inmates are sentenced for a week or less, and the prisoners who are most likely to be affected are serving more than 30 days, she said.

Longer jail sentences are a small part of the city's overall strategy for creating a different environment in central Boulder.

"The city of Boulder very much supports diversionary programs," Huntley said. "We try to send as few people to jail from the beginning as possible."

Contact Camera Staff Writer Erica Meltzer at 303-473-1355, meltzere@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/meltzere.