WELD COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – As concerns among many in Colorado rise over inmates being released early from jail on bond, one local sheriff has decided to take action in an effort to increase transparency. Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams announced on Monday afternoon that his agency would now publish not only the names, birthdays and charges of those being released on bond.
However, they would also include the bond amount and the name of the judge who ordered the release. Staff at the Weld County Jail, including Jail Captain Matt Turner, vocalized their support of the new information being published on the sheriff’s website.
“When a person is released from jail, the first question the community is going to ask is, ‘Why did this person get out and who released them?’” Turner told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas from inside the Weld County Jail.
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CBS4’s team of reporters have covered many stories about the surge in concerns over many inmates with violent backgrounds or charges being released back into the public on relatively low bonds.
In 2020 CBS4’s Dillon Thomas broke the story of a Windsor man facing several charges including child abuse and was released early from Weld County Jail by court order. Police then said he went on to strangle his ex-girlfriend days after being released early from jail. He was later caught after allegedly evading police.
Many inmates were released early at low bond levels during the pandemic by state and court orders handed down, originally intended to decrease odds of COVID-19 exposure. However, as the world largely returns to lifestyles similar to that before the pandemic, the Weld County Sheriff’s Office says it has seen early releases stay steady as crime increases.
Many cities and counties throughout the State of Colorado have reported sharp spikes in crime rates. Turner compared current statistics to that of the crime rate the year before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Property crime is up 25%, violent crime is up 31%,” Turner said. “Auto theft is up 94% in Weld County. It is dramatic. That’s why they are asking, ‘Crime is up, why are we releasing people?’”
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Because of the questions they were receiving from the public, the sheriff’s office elected to provide more information on their website as to who is associated with releases.
“Sheriff Reams gets questions frequently from the community about why people are getting out of jail so quickly,” Turner said. “The jail is not responsible for releasing people. We hold them and release them when we are ordered to do so.”
Now, those who visit the sheriff’s Daily Inmate Released Report website can see the former inmate’s name, birthdate, charges, bond type, bond amount and even the name of the judge who presided over the bond hearing.
“It is about being transparent. It is about knowing why that person is being let back into the community,” Turner said.
More transparency is something the sheriff and the Weld County Courts both told CBS4 they support. However, the extent and method of doing so was not mutually agreed upon.
In a written statement to CBS4, 19th Judicial District Chief Judge James F. Hartmann said the information is already public, but most people never request it.
“Our courtrooms are open to the public and we completely support transparency regarding bonds and bond conditions that are set by all our judicial officers. All persons charged with a criminal offense are presumed innocent and the presumption of innocence carries with it the constitutional right to have bail set and the ability to post bond while the charge is pending, except for a few designated charges such as first-degree murder,” the spokesperson wrote. “In Weld County, the setting of bail for persons accused of a crime at a bond hearing is done on an individualized basis after the judicial officer has considered all statutory factors, the facts contained in the affidavit for warrantless arrest, as well as considering the statements made on the record by the attorneys representing both the prosecution and defense. We also receive and consider information contained in pretrial bail reports prepared by Weld County Pretrial Services for felony charges and serious misdemeanor offenses.”
While bond information is determined at court, cases that are open to the public, as noted by the courts, most are never published unless they are part of a case of significant community interest or in the media.
“To achieve true and complete transparency, we encourage Sheriff Reams to include information on all the bond hearings held each day, and not a select few,” the spokesperson wrote. “The public is always welcome and invited to attend court hearings, including bond hearings, in-person at the Weld County Courthouse during the week.”