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The Cost of Incarceration

As The Smoky Mountain News embarks on a yearlong investigative project to explore the rural jail crisis, we wanted to first take a look at how much incarceration is costing the taxpayers in Western North Carolina.  Financial data was collected from the four counties in our coverage area — Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain — to analyze how much each spends annually on local detention centers and how…
The use of bail bonds dates back centuries as a means to settle disputes peacefully and to ensure a defendant shows up to court by having a friend or family member agree to pay the debt if the accused flees. 
The Durham County Detention Facility opened in the summer of 1996 with a capacity of 576 single cells. By 2005, the jail was at or over capacity a majority of the time. 
Women make up the fastest growing segment of inmates in the U.S. correctional system. According to a 2016 study conducted by the Vera Institute of Justice, the number of women in jail grew from under 8,000 in 1970 to over 110,000 in 2014 and nearly half of them are in small county jails. 
At 27 years old, Samantha Ledford found herself addicted to prescription pills and heroin. Her daily life had become consumed with finding her next high and there didn’t seem to be a way out. 
In a criminal justice system that is often operated under rigid regulations and protocols, people may be surprised to find the disparities within the walls of local jails.  All the jails have the same basics — sally port, booking area, magistrate office, holding cells, inmate pods and control rooms with security cameras — but each facility is set up a little differently. 
When county jails are constantly at or over capacity, the easiest answer seems to be to build a bigger one.
Taxpayers aren’t the only ones paying the price for the growing number of incarcerations and overcrowded jails. 
Many rural county jail populations are growing at a higher rate than urban county jails or even state prisons, according to research done by the Center on Sentencing and Corrections at the Vera Institute of Justice.
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