Weld County Sheriff’s Office releases new report on prison release – Greeley Tribune
The Weld County Sheriff’s Office recently released a new report detailing the release of inmates from the jail.
While Sheriff Steve Reams says the report is a matter of transparency because releasing inmates from prison on bail is correlated with higher crime rates, some argue it lacks other relevant information and could be an attempt to pressure judges set higher deposits.
The sheriff’s office released the new report last week, which includes the names of the suspects, dates of birth and charges, as well as the bail total and the name of the judge who issued the bail.
“People think the sheriff’s office releases people, but the reality is that we detain people and release them when court orders so,” said prison captain Matt Turner. “Sheriff Reams felt it was important to create the declassification report to show: A) people getting out on PR bonds, and B) the name of the judge associated with those PR bonds so they know who releases them.”
High crime rates and early release
In April 2020, the sheriff’s office was forced to release felons from prison after a federal judge issued an injunction based on ACLU Colorado’s lawsuit alleging that Reams failed to take adequate action in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The lawsuit asked Reams to reduce the prison population. As a result, many people charged with minor offenses such as property crime have been released from prison, Reams told the Tribune in June 2021.
Around the same time, property crime in Weld County increased, with a 24.5% increase from 2019 to 2020. At the same time, violent crime increased from 160 cases to 236 cases.
Two years later, Turner said he still sees “COVID-19 conditioning” in the court system, where defense attorneys are asking judges to release people over the threat of the virus. Turner said people have been wondering how and why inmates are being released back into the community while crime has been on the rise since the pandemic.
“The sheriff gets a lot of questions from the community about why we’re releasing so many people,” Turner said. “People are seeing crime on the rise and wondering what is causing it. According to Sheriff Reams, that directly correlates to how many people get out of prison on low bonds or PR bonds.”
In Weld County, violent crime increased 31% in 2021 compared to 2019, property crime increased 26%, and motor vehicle theft increased 94%. Meanwhile, Turner reported, the prison population has declined by about 20 percent.
“You can definitely see that we’re not holding onto people like we used to,” Turner said. “The impact is being felt in the community because people are out there committing crimes…they know they’re going to be released and they’re not going to stop. There is no penalty for this. There’s no danger there. There is an increase in crime and I believe this is directly related to the decline in my prison population.”
Establishment of bond, presumption of innocence
A criminal defense attorney from northern Colorado fears that the report will not only further punish those who have not yet been convicted of a crime, but will also put undue pressure on the justice system.
“Any time a law enforcement agency decides to make openly available personally identifiable information about individuals online without context or eventual resolution, it is detrimental to the interests of justice and is inherently criminal,” attorney Rachel Michael wrote in a statement. “The accused are presumed innocent until proven guilty. This sheriff makes sure that people are punished immediately (and forever) for being charged with just one crime in his county. His actions appear to serve a profoundly inappropriate purpose — to instill fear in judges of public backlash against posting bail (as required by law).”
Michael pointed out that legal officials are given limited information, including a brief summary of the allegations, criminal history, compliance with previous probation orders, and failure to appear at previous court hearings when bail was determined. In many cases, she said, the court is limited to a bond type or amount based on the level of fees, a statutory bail schedule, or a court mandate related to the bond.
“While I can’t comment on the sheriff’s hopes for higher bails or longer sentences for those who retain their constitutional rights and have yet been found guilty of a felony, Weld County law enforcement officials shouldn’t be pushed into a bail rule for fear.” Embarrassment or retaliation,” Michael said. “The bail needs to be set with respect to community safety and showing up at future court hearings.”
Marci Hoffman, bailiff for the 19th Judicial District, wrote in a statement that all legal proceedings begin with the presumption of innocence, which comes with the right to be released from custody unless there is a first-degree murder case. The state’s acting assistant public defender, Michele Newell, said the presumption of innocence applies to anyone charged with a crime unless the government proves the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.
“Sheriff Reams and Captain Turner’s description of people being released ‘early’ is misleading and inaccurate,” Newell wrote in a statement. “These are people who have been accused of crimes that have not been convicted.”
Newell said judges are required by Colorado law to set the least restrictive bond terms based on the specific circumstances of each case and that cash bond systems are disadvantageous to low-income people who cannot afford bonds.
Turner isn’t sure whether Reams’ published report will have any bearing on their decisions.
“Really, we just want to make the community aware of who is making this decision,” he said.
Some concern transparency is not the only motive for the new report.
“I am concerned that the information posted on this site could be misused and used to politicize the justice system, intimidate judges into asking for higher bails in violation of state law, or to harass and retaliate against individuals who commit crimes.” charged with crimes but not convicted,” Newell wrote.
According to Michael, those whose cases have been dismissed, particularly those filing a motion to have their case closed, will be strongly and negatively impacted by this report.
Michael said many people who request obfuscation face prejudice due to the public disclosure of this type of information, even though state legislatures believe these release details should be sealed from the public.
“While information about bonds is widely available to attorneys, the free release of information through an Internet search is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to publicly shame those accused of a crime that is untried and unproven,” Michael wrote .
Though the 19th Circuit supports transparency in setting bond issues — available through open courtrooms, online records, and media coverage — Hoffman said the information released should not be limited to just a handful of bond hearings.
“To achieve true transparency, we encourage Sheriff Reams to include information about all bond hearings held daily, rather than a select few,” Hoffman wrote.
Similarly, Michael argued the report was “selective transparency” that only favored the state, not the community. She explained that even the most minor cases in Weld County can be delayed by long files.
“A quick search of one’s name by a neighbor, an employer, or a stranger will have irreparable consequences, so an ode to transparency simply won’t suffice,” Michael said. “True transparency would require simultaneous reporting on the resolution of the same cases, including inappropriate behavior by law enforcement and the removal of such recordings from the internet following a seal order.”
To view the daily inmate release report, go to
“We believe the public has a right to know this information,” Hoffman said. “Again, the public is always welcome and invited to attend court hearings, including bond hearings, in person at the Weld County Courthouse.”
https://www.greeleytribune.com/2022/06/28/weld-county-sheriffs-office-launches-new-jail-release-report/ Weld County Sheriff’s Office releases new report on prison release – Greeley Tribune