A new report shows a breakdown in the Mesa County criminal justice system that allowed county officials to keep atleast ten people behind bars illegally. 11 News Reporter Jessica Zartler spoke to the judge who discovered the problem.
Atleast ten people spent days, weeks, even months in jail without bond, without a court order and without a judge saying there was probable cause.
"These people had not been sentenced to jail, and yet they were in jail," Mesa County Judge David Bottger told 11 News on Friday.
Bottger says he discovered the problem and took action, writing letters to several county offices. The problem—the ten defendants were sentenced, but to community corrections, a live–in and live–out program to monitor offenders rather than put them in jail.
They were accused of violating the rules of Community Corrections and the Criminal Justice Service Department would rearrest the defendants. Bottger says the issue was with what came next, or didn't come.
"Community Corrections has every right and some might say responsibility to put them in jail especially if they're a danger to the community. The breakdown is that the courts weren't being notified," said Bottger.
His letters sparked an independent review by a retired judge a county analyst.
"I appreciate that Community Corrections, the Criminal Justice Service Department and county have been able to take a hard look at themselves, warts and all, that's not an easy thing to do," said Bottger.
Calls to County Administrator Jon Peacock, who oversees Community Corrections, were not returned by 11 News at 5:30pm on Friday.
the report cited a breakdown in communication and a lack of immediacy in reporting to the courts.
Although it's not clear if it's affected other Community Correction clients, Judge Bottger says it won't anymore, now that the county is making changes.
"Good things will come out of this. We're all going to learn to work together and communicate better," said Bottger.
The investigation has prompted change. Community Corrections and the Mesa County Sheriff's Office are now giving arrest affidavits and names in cases like these to the courts within 24 hours.
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