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More People Are Incarcerated in Duval County Jails Than There Have Been In Years, JSO Says

A view of the Duval County Jail in Downtown Jacksonville.
Bob Self
Florida Times-Union file photo

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office says the population of Duval county jails is at its highest in years, in part because of the challenges of transferring inmates to state prisons.


In a Safer Together workshop Friday, JSO Chief William Clement said the average daily population in Duval County jails was 3,588 for the first months of 2021, well above the daily averages going back to at least 2017. That number includes county inmates and people being detained before they go to court. But Clement said one major reason the jails are so full is the difficulty of transferring inmates to state prisons. 

“There is a current issue with transition,” Clement said. “If somebody is convicted of a felony and they’re doing state time, the state, due to covid protocols, there’s a delay in how they accept them, and we have to keep them contained and then send them in small clusters to the state, who once again quarantine them once they’re there. It’s just a slow process.”

Clement called it a “moving puzzle,” trying to keep inmates quarantined properly while still arranging medical services. 

“When someone comes in because they’re arrested and booked, you have to keep them separate,” he said. “If you have someone come in your back door that’s contaminated, and you send them up to a [housing] floor, you just contaminated that whole dormitory, that whole floor. So until we get a negative test result, we’re having to keep them separated. So there’s a lot of moving parts to this. I can’t even say it’s a puzzle; it’s a moving puzzle. Every day, somebody rearranges the pieces and tells you to keep going.” 

The surge comes after a marked drop in the jail population in the early months of the pandemic, when the State Attorney’s Office issued a memo calling for the release of low-risk inmates in the interest of public health. 

The memo resulted in a 21% drop in incarceration in the first month it was in effect, according to The Florida Times-Union. Most of the decline was in sentenced inmates (that is, people found guilty and serving time in county jails) and pre-trial inmates (people who had not been convicted of a crime but were being held without bail or because they could not afford bail). 

“We hear a lot of convos about low-income people or people with mental health issues not being able to make bail. So you’re in there for pre-trial because you can’t make $500 bail because you come from a low-income family. Generally speaking, would we be able to see that, or not as much?” asked Dr. Tammy Hodo, a consultant with All Things Diverse who was facilitating Friday’s meeting.

Clement said, “Bail is always a challenge. That’s not something anybody budgets for.”

He did not give a count of the number of pre-trial detainees currently held in Duval County jails. 

Contact Sydney Boles at, or on Twitter at@sydneyboles.