Controlling a JailPopulation by PartiallyClosing the Front Door

An Evaluation of a “Summonsin Lieu of Arrest” Policy

Terry L. BaumerIndiana University Purdue University, IndianapolisKenneth AdamsUniversity of Central Florida, Orlando

This study reports on an evaluation of a strategy designed to reduce crowd-ing of a county jail. The local judiciary sought to reduce the jail populationby ordering local police agencies to issue a summons rather than arrest indi-viduals accused of seven misdemeanor offenses. The study compares allcases booked during the first 8 months of the policy with all cases bookedduring the same months in the previous year. The results indicate that the policywas implemented, that it did reduce the intake population, and that there wereminimal side effects; however, the potential impact was considerably overes-timated in the planning stage.

Keywords: jails; overcrowding; summons; alternatives to arrest

During the past two and one half decades, correctional populations inthe United States have experienced exceptional growth. Between 1980

and 2004, the total number of people under correctional supervisionincreased by 280% (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2005). Although all formsof corrections experienced increases, the largest changes occurred in themost restrictive and costly dispositions: prisons and jails. During this same

The Prison Journal Volume 86 Number 3

September 2006 386-402© 2006 Sage Publications


hosted at

Authors’ Note: This research was supported by a grant from the Indiana Criminal JusticeInstitute. Points of view or opinions are those of the authors and do not necessarily representthose of the supporting agency. This is a revised version of a paper presented at the annualmeeting of the American Society of Criminology, November 2003.

time frame, prison populations increased 345% and jail populationsincreased 288% (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2005).

These dramatic increases have resulted in crowded conditions for bothprisons and jails. At the end of 2004, state prisons were operating at 99%of their highest capacity and 115% of their lowest capacity estimates(Harrison & Beck, 2005b). When the lowest capacity estimate for eachstate is used, all but five states exceeded the 90% guideline established bythe American Correctional Association. The situation is similar in localjails. At midyear 2004, 94% of jail capacity was occupied (Harrison &Beck, 2005a). The 50 largest jails in the United States hold approximately31% of the jail population. At midyear 2004, 20 (40%) of these exceededtheir capacity, whereas 33 (66%) were more than 90% full (Harrison &Beck, 2005a).

At its broadest level, the dynamics of prison and jail populations are thesame. At any given time, the population is a direct function of the numberof admissions and the length of stay (see Cushman, 2002; Pretrial ServicesResource Center, 2000). Although the effect of the former is immediate andthe effect of the latter delayed by the current length of stay, the final resultis the same: Any change to either will result in a corresponding change inthe overall population. In this sense, the sources of the dramatic increasesin prison and jail populations are conceptually the same. A number ofauthors have identified policy changes that affected one or both of thesefactors for prison populations (Blumstein, 1995; Tonry, 1990).

The factors that drive admissions and length of stay, however, are quitedifferent for prisons and jails. Much of the prison population is legislativelydriven. In any given jurisdiction the type of sentences (determinate–indeterminate), type of release (discretionary–mandatory), length of sentence,extent of credit time, mandatory minimums, sentence enhancements (threestrikes), and a host of other factors are largely controlled by the relevantsentencing statutes. As a result, significant reductions in prison populationsmust rely on statutory changes (or administrative sleight of hand), whichare difficult to come by.

Jail populations, on the other hand, are potentially much more amenableto change. Nationally, slightly more than 60% of jail inmates are pretrialdetainees (Harrison & Beck, 2005a) who either have been denied bail or donot have the resources to obtain release through bail. Most, but not all, ofthose individuals serving sentences in jail were convicted of misdemeanor orminor felony offenses. Arrest policies and bail standards are generally estab-lished at the local level by police agencies and the county courts. Similarly,misdemeanor sentences seldom suffer the constraints and mandates of their

Baumer, Adams / Summons in Lieu of Arrest 387

felony counterparts. This leaves the nature of the disposition potentiallymuch more open to negotiations among the interested parties. As a result,local officials can manipulate both the number of admissions and the lengthof stay through changes in local policies (see Cunniff, 2002; Cushman,2002; Pretrial Services Resource Center, 2000).

This article reports on one approach by a county to control its local jail pop-ulation. This jurisdiction focused on a “front door” strategy (Blumstein, 1995)designed to reduce admissions to the county jail system. The executive com-mittee of the local judiciary ordered police agencies to issue a summons toappear rather than arrest individuals accused of seven misdemeanor offenses.At initiation of the policy, it was estimated that this change might reduceadmissions to the county jail system by approximately 20% to 25%. If suc-cessful, this would have a substantial effect on the local jail population.


Like many others around the United States, the county under study hada long history of litigation concerning the county jail. In 1972, inmates filedsuit in federal court seeking relief from the overcrowded condition in thejail. Three years later, in 1975, the judge assigned to the case imposed a capon the jail population. The county added capacity to the jail on at least threeseparate occasions, but by 1999 the crowding had backed up to include thecounty lockup facility. In that year, the population in the county lockup wasadded to the existing litigation, and later that year the federal court imposeda population cap of 213 on the lockup facility. Two years later, with themutual assent of the county and the plaintiffs, the cap was raised to 297.

The litigation continued with regular reviews and hearings by the federalcourt, but the county was doing little to abate the chronic crowding in thefacility. In April 2002, the federal judge handling the case held county offi-cials in contempt for their failure to comply with the agreed-on cap of 297and indicated that financial penalties, and potentially contempt citations,would be imposed for violations of the cap after May 1. The county wasnow on notice that something must be done to control the population of thecounty lockup or they would pay the price.

In response to the federal judge’s action, the executive committee of thecounty court system, noting “its obligation to assist the Sheriff and othercounty officials in complying with the Federal Court Order and to maintainpublic safety within our community,” issued a court order on April 18,2002, designed to help control the population of the county lockup facility.

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This order noted the need to comply with the population cap and, pursuantto that goal, established a “summons in lieu of arrest” policy for seven non-violent, misdemeanor offenses: possession of marijuana, possession ofparaphernalia, driving with a suspended license, operating a vehicle neverhaving received a license, prostitution, patronizing a prostitute, and conver-sion (generally shoplifting). The order did not apply to individuals chargedwith the felony versions of these offenses.

This order contained two substantive provisions. The first ordered thesheriff to advise all law enforcement agencies operating within the countyto issue a summons (a ticket) in lieu of arrest for these offenses. Thisapplied to any combination of these seven offenses and any nonarrestableinfraction or ordinance violations that might be included in the same inci-dent. If the individuals had any other criminal charges or an outstandingwarrant (even for one of the eligible offenses), the sheriff could still acceptand book them into the lockup just like any other criminal offense.

Because the above order was contrary to long-standing policies withinthe county and many of its constituent police departments, the executivecommittee anticipated a potential for noncompliance: Simply telling the policeagencies within the county to stop arresting individuals for these offensesprobably was not going to be very effective. To ensure compliance with thenew policy, the second provision ordered the sheriff to stop accepting, at thelockup facility, individuals charged only with the above offenses. Thus, if aparticular department or individual officer arrested an individual for one ofthe eligible charges, the sheriff’s department was instructed to turn themaway by refusing to book them into the lockup facility. The court orderedthe sheriff to advise all agencies within the county of this policy.

Although no formal analysis was conducted prior to issuance of theorder, it appears that a substantial impact on the lockup population wasanticipated. The order noted, “During an average week, the lock-upreceives between 180-250 individuals charged with [the above] non-violentmisdemeanor offenses.” No indication was given as to whether the policywas expected to apply to all of these individuals or some subset of them.Assuming the former, the anticipated impact on the intake populationwould have been a reduction of between 26 and 36 individuals per day.Given that the county booked approximately 142 people per day (slightlyfewer than 1,000 per week), the policy offered the potential to reduce theintake population by 18% to 25%.

The impact on the total lockup population would depend on the lengthof stay for these individuals. For example, if prior to implementation of thenew policy, the individuals charged with these minor offenses were booked

Baumer, Adams / Summons in Lieu of Arrest 389

out within 24 hours, the impact would be between 26 and 36 people. Thiswould be a reduction of approximately 10% (10% of 297 = 29.7). However,if prior to implementation of the policy these individuals stayed 2 days, thelockup population would be reduced by between 52 and 72 people (20%).Under any of these scenarios, the projected impact of the court order wouldbe substantial.

The following analysis will focus on three areas related to the policy.First, implementation of the policy will be reviewed. An initial analysis willassess the actual size of the target population as defined by the court orderand interpreted by the sheriff’s department employees at the lockup. Theseestimates will form the outer boundaries of potential for the outcome analy-sis. This will be followed by an analysis of the extent of implementation forthe policy.

Next, the primary impact of the policy on the county lockup facility willbe assessed. Given that the policy was explicitly designed to divert individu-als charged with the seven misdemeanor offenses from lockup, the reductionin number of lockup bookings will be investigated. As noted above, the effectof the policy on the overall lockup population depended on both the extent ofimplementation and the length of stay for the target population. The impactof the policy on length of stay and total “bed days” will be assessed.

Finally, secondary outcomes of the new policy will be reviewed. Althoughthe court order issued by the county executive committee did not address pos-sible secondary outcomes for the new policy, a number of plausible hypothe-ses are possible. For example, it would be reasonable to anticipate an increasein the failure to appear (FTA) rate for the target cases. In addition, it might behypothesized that the new policy would affect case disposition in a numberof ways. The analysis will look at the number of cases without a dispositionat least 10 months later and the nature of the disposition.


The county stored information for all criminal cases on a mainframecase management system. The researchers worked with a county program-mer to generate cases from the first 8 months of the new policy period anda comparison group selected from the same period of the preceding year.

The time frame was dictated by a policy revision made by the county.From the time of implementation on April 19, 2002, criminal justice offi-cials were under some pressure to rescind the order. In particular, someneighborhood groups objected strenuously to the issuance of citations for

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prostitution. They argued that issuing tickets for prostitution did nothing toreduce prostitution in their areas of the city. During the summer and fall of2002, the policy became one of the issues in the election for county sheriff,with the eventually winner calling the county a “laughingstock” for issuingcitations for misdemeanor prostitution. The judges revised the order byremoving prostitution from the list of eligible offenses on December 20,2002—almost exactly 8 months after the original order. The present studyfocused on cases originating during the initial 8-month period when allseven offenses were included.

Selection of cases was the same for both 2002 and the comparison groupfrom the previous year. For the primary analytic files, all cases that includedat least 1 of the 7 charges and that fell between April 19 and December 20were selected. The files included information on all charges associated withthis case (level, type), date of booking, date of disposition, nature of dispo-sition for all charges, and basic characteristics of the individual charged inthe case (race, sex, date of birth). Because case was the unit of analysis,individuals might be included multiple times. This generated 6,110 casesfrom the target year and 6,221 for the comparison year. Because all casesoccurring in the county during the sampling frame were included and itcannot be inferred that these cases represent a random sample of cases inother jurisdictions, no statistical tests of significance are reported.


Eligible Cases and Level of Implementation

The general parameters of the target population are presented in Table 1.The number of cases with any of the seven misdemeanor offenses declinedslightly from 6,221 for the comparable period of the previous year to 6,110during the 8-month study period. However, cases covered by the summons inlieu of arrest order increased from 58.6% to 65.8% of all cases with one ormore of the seven charges. This amounted to an increase of 379 cases in whichindividuals were charged with one, or more, of the misdemeanor targetoffenses and no other criminal offenses. Overall, 4,022 cases were potentiallyeligible for a citation only during the first 8 months of the policy, whereas3,643 would have been eligible during the same 8 months in the prior year.

The above findings indicate that the potential impact of the change inpolicy was considerably lower than suggested in the court order. The originalorder noted that the target cases accounted for between 180 and 250 cases per

Baumer, Adams / Summons in Lieu of Arrest 391

392 The Prison Journal

week. When translated to the 8-month study period (243 days), this estimatewould be between 6,245 and 8,675 cases. The total number of cases with atleast one of these charges (6,110) was fairly close to the lesser of the two esti-mates. Because the total number of cases is similar for each period, the sug-gestion is that the lower estimate of 180 per week was actually the moreaccurate of the two. However, when cases with other criminal charges areexcluded, the number of eligible cases (4,022) was only 65.8% of this esti-mate during the study period and only 58.6% in the comparable period thepreceding year. This overestimate of the target population limited the poten-tial impact of the policy change to less than two thirds the original estimate.

Although the target population was smaller than anticipated, with fullimplementation the summons in lieu of arrest policy could still substan-tially reduce the number of people booked into the county lockup. Fourtypes of booking were possible for the eligible cases: (a) An “outright”booking occurred when the officer made an arrest and the defendant wasbrought to lockup, (b) a “summons” booking occurred when the officerissued a citation and the defendant was booked when he or she appeared incourt, (c) a “warrant” booking occurred when the defendant was arrested ona warrant for one of the targeted offenses, and (d) “no booking” occurredwhen the defendant was cited by the officer but failed to appear and wasnever arrested on the subsequent warrant. Cases subject to the summons inlieu of arrest policy could be any of the latter three types, although it explic-itly sought to eliminate outright bookings for the targeted offenses.

Table 2 presents the type of booking for eligible cases. This table showsthat under the summons in lieu of arrest policy, only 20.2% of the eligiblecases experienced outright bookings, whereas for the comparison period,59.5% were outright bookings.

These numbers have double implications for policy implementation.First, these figures could be interpreted as an indication of 80% compliance

Table 1Target Charges and Eligible Cases

Prior to Policy During Policy

n % n %

Eligible cases 3,643 58.6 4,022 65.8Not eligible cases 2,578 41.4 2,088 34.2Total 6,221 100.0 6,110 100.0

Baumer, Adams / Summons in Lieu of Arrest 393

with the court order not to arrest these individuals. Consultation with sheriff’sdepartment personnel who worked in the lockup during this time indicatesthat an outright booking for an apparently eligible case could occur inseveral ways. If an officer stopped an individual for an eligible offense anddiscovered an outstanding warrant for that individual from another case, theofficer was obliged to make an arrest. This resulted in both a warrant book-ing for the old case and an outright booking for the new offense. Withoutthe old warrant, the person may have received a citation only. Another sit-uation occurred when an officer arrested an individual for an offense eligi-ble for a citation and brought him or her to lockup for booking, and thebooking officers entered the information into the case management systembefore noticing that the individual should not have been arrested. Another,less common situation occurred as above, but the arresting officer had leftthe lockup before the processing officers noticed that the case should not beprocessed as an outright arrest. A fourth exception occurred when the pro-cessing officers noted that the police officer had arrested a summons in lieuof arrest case, but the arresting officer refused to take the defendant backand issue a citation. In these cases, rather than fight about the correct pro-cessing of the case, the processing officers tended to go ahead and book itas an outright case. Thus, the figures in Table 2 clearly indicate substantialcompliance with the court order.

However, Table 2 indicates a second, more serious, complication for thepotential impact of the new policy. A substantial number of cases were han-dled in a way consistent with the summons in lieu of arrest policy evenbefore its implementation. During the comparison period, a full year beforeimplementation, only 59.5% of the eligible cases involved an arrest andoutright booking, whereas 25.4% involved a summons booking. Thus, the

Table 2Type of Booking for Eligible Cases

Prior to Policy During Policy

Type of Booking n % n %

Outright arrest 2,166 59.5 814 20.2Warrant 338 9.3 727 18.1Summons 926 25.4 1,942 48.3Never booked 213 5.8 539 13.4Total 3,643 100.0 4,022 100.0

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target population, of people actually arrested for one of the target offenses,was only about 60% the size of the original estimate. Thus, in addition tothe overestimate of the number of eligible cases noted earlier, the announcedpolicy represented only an incremental change in existing practices. Theresult was that the potential for the policy was about 40% that estimated inthe court order (.658 × .595 = .392). Rather than having the potential ofreducing the intake population by 180 to 250 people per week, the morerealistic figure was 71 per week (about 10 per day).

Primary Outcomes

Lockup bookings. The summons in lieu of arrest policy was intended todirectly reduce the number of bookings at the county lockup. Specifically,it was directed at a reduction in the number of outright bookings at the facil-ity. Individuals who were cited for the target offenses would still be bookedwhen they appeared in court, but this was accomplished on the nonsecureside of the lockup, which was not part of the federal court order. However,warrant bookings were processed through the lockup facility just as out-right bookings. To the extent that the new policy reduced outright bookingsbut increased warrant bookings, its impact would be limited. Multiplebookings for specific cases, usually created by multiple arrests on warrants,could also limit the policy impact.

Both the number and percentage of outright bookings decreased during thestudy period (Table 3). During the comparison period, cases with one or moreof the target offenses accounted for 4,589 outright bookings, or 73.8% of thecases. During the study period, however, these numbers dropped to 2,634 out-right bookings (43.1%). The difference between the two periods was 1,955

Table 3Type of Booking for All Cases With One or More Target Charge

Prior to Policy During Policy

Type of Booking n % n %

Outright 4,589 73.8 2,634 43.1Warrant 427 6.9 900 14.7Summons 976 15.7 2,002 32.8No booking 229 3.7 574 9.4Total 6,221 100.1 6,110 100.0

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fewer outright bookings. This impact was moderated considerably, however,by an increase in the number of warrant bookings, which more than doubledfrom 427 to 900. The result was that the number of eligible cases bookedthrough the county lockup (outright and warrant) dropped 29.6%, from 5,016during the comparison period to 3,534 during the study period. The differenceof 1,482 amounted to an average of 6.1 fewer cases booked per day (1,482 ÷243 = 6.1). This is considerably lower than the 26 to 36 per day projected bythe court order and closer to the two-fifths figure (39.2%) identified above.

Another potential impact of the new policy might be through the totalnumber of outright or warrant bookings for each case. Because of FTA andother violations of court orders, it is possible that the individual charged ina single case might have multiple arrests and bookings for that case. For thepresent study, the researchers captured the type of booking for up to fourbookings for each case. Table 4 presents the number of lockup bookings(outright or warrant) for the two study periods. The total number of lockupbookings for all cases with any of the target offenses dropped from 7,720during the comparison period to 5,443 during the study period. Thisdecrease of 2,277 fewer lockup bookings for these cases amounted to 9.4bookings (2,277 ÷ 243) per day.

Not all of the reduction in lockup bookings, however, can be attributed tothe new policy. If the number of bookings for eligible and noneligible cases iscompared, the reduction for policy-eligible cases was reduced by only about1,219 bookings (3,616 – 2,397) between the two periods. This amounts to only

Table 4Number of Outright and Warrant Bookings by Eligible Case

Prior to Policy During Policy

Not Eligible Eligible Not Eligible EligibleLockupBookingsPer Case n % n % n % n %

None 60 —a 1,031 — 80 — 2,256 —One 1,521 37.1 1,908 52.8 1,305 42.8 1,285 53.6Two 1,160 28.3 946 26.2 912 29.9 718 29.9Three 735 17.9 486 13.4 477 15.7 282 11.8Four 688 16.8 276 7.6 352 11.7 112 4.7Total 4,104 100.1 3,616 100.0 3,046 100.0 2,397 100.0

Note: For this table, the unit is booking (cases multiplied by the number of lockup bookings).a. No bookings counts as 0.

396 The Prison Journal

about one half (53.5%) of the total reduction noted above. The remainder(1,058 lockup bookings) can be attributed to a drop of 25.8% in the number ofbookings for noneligible cases with one or more of the eligible offenses.

Lockup population. All things being equal, fewer lockup bookingsshould translate into some relief for the lockup population. The followinganalysis looks at the median length of stay and total bed days occupied bythis population. Because no time of day was recorded in the data system forwhen an individual was booked into the lockup or when they were released,the analysis will use the less precise measure of day. Thus, if a person isbooked in and booked out on the same day, as would be the case under thesummons in lieu of arrest policy, their length of stay should be zero. Tomake the comparisons meaningful, a cutoff date of October 27 of the fol-lowing year was enforced for both groups. Cases with no jail start dateand/or no jail end date were excluded.

Cases originating during the summons in lieu of arrest period were morelikely to be booked and released on the same day than were cases duringthe comparison period (Table 5). For cases eligible for the summons in lieuof arrest policy, the percentage booked out on the same day jumped from49.8% to 67.4%. However, the people charged in these cases tended not tostay very long either before or during the policy period. The mean length ofstay for eligible cases was only 1.8 days before the policy was implementedand 1.5 days during the policy period. The longer stays were reserved forother cases, as reflected in the mean stays of 8.4 and 7.3 days for all caseswith one of the target offenses.

Table 5Length of Stay and Bed Days Consumed

Prior to Policy During Policy

One or More One or MoreTarget Offenses Eligible Target Offenses Eligible

Booked and released same dayn 2,372 1,693 2,844 2,342% 39.9 49.8 51.5 67.4

Stay in daysMdn 1 1 0 0M 8.4 1.8 7.3 1.5Total bed days 49,796 6,024 40,168 5,061

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Total bed days in jail were calculated for both groups. For all cases withone or more of the target offenses, the total number of bed days occupiedchanged from 49,796 for the cases originating during the comparisonperiod to 40,168 for cases originating during the summons in lieu of arrestperiod. This amounted to 9,628 fewer bed days. As a percentage of possi-ble bed days, using the population cap of 297 and the exposure period of544 days, these cases accounted for about a 6.0% reduction in total beddays during the study periods.

Unfortunately, the above reduction was largely the result of factors otherthan the summons in lieu of arrest policy. The eligible population consumed6,024 bed days in the comparison period compared with 5,061 during thesummons in lieu of arrest period. A difference of 963 bed days is attribut-able to the cases potentially eligible for the new policy. This is about 10%of the difference noted above and amounts to 0.6% of total bed days duringthe study periods. As Table 5 shows, the eligible cases tended to be bookedin and out fairly quickly before the new policy, making a significant impacton the lockup population difficult to achieve (cf. Cunniff, 2002).

Secondary Outcomes

FTA. Two potential secondary outcomes of the summons in lieu of arrestpolicy were reviewed: FTA and case disposition. Large differentials ineither of these could affect the viability of the policy independent of theeffect on the lockup population.

FTA was measured by counting the number of FTA entries in the courtrecord for each case. The number of FTAs for all cases with a target offenseis presented in Table 6. The percentage of cases with no FTA decreasedfrom 52.4% in the comparison year to 46.7% following implementation of

Table 6Failure to Appear (FTA) for All Cases

With One or More Target Offenses

Prior to Policy During Policy

Number of FTAs n % n %

No FTAs 3,258 52.4 2,854 46.7One FTA 1,977 31.8 2,280 37.3Two or more FTAs 986 15.8 976 16.0Total 6,221 100.0 6,110 100.0

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the policy. A corresponding increase from 31.8% to 37.3% was recorded inthe percentage of cases with one FTA. However, the percentage of caseswith two or more FTAs was nearly identical: 15.8% versus 16.0%. Overall,this amounted to a net increase of 293 cases with one or more FTAs.

The target cases for the summons in lieu of arrest policy had a higherrate of FTA in both the comparison and treatment periods. Table 7 indicatesthat the percentage of target cases with one or more FTAs increased from51.5% to 60.7% when the policy went into effect. The correspondingfigures for cases with one of the seven offenses but also another criminaloffense, which made them ineligible for a simple citation, actually droppedfrom 42.2% to 39.0% with one or more FTAs. As with the figures for theentire sample, for the target group of eligible cases the percentage with twoor more FTAs remained about the same: 17.1% versus 18.0%.

The FTA rate was even higher for eligible cases treated in compliancewith the summons in lieu of arrest policy (no outright booking; Table 8).

Table 7Failure to Appear (FTA) Rates for Policy Eligible Cases

Prior to Policy During Policy

Not Eligible Eligible Not Eligible Eligible

n % n % n % n %

No FTAs 1,490 57.8 1,768 48.5 1,274 61.0 1,580 39.3One FTA 722 28.0 1,255 34.4 564 27.0 1,716 42.7Two or more FTAs 366 14.2 620 17.1 250 12.0 726 18.0Total 2,578 100.0 3,643 100.0 2,088 100.0 4,022 100.0

Table 8Failure to Appear (FTA) for Eligible Cases

With No Outright Booking

Prior to Policy During Policy

Number of FTAs n % n %

No FTAs 524 35.5 1,131 35.3One FTA 630 42.7 1,460 45.5Two or more FTAs 323 21.9 617 19.2Total 1,477 100.1 3,208 100.0

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For the cases occurring after implementation of the summons in lieu ofarrest policy and with no outright booking, only 35.3% had no FTA for theircase, whereas 45.5% recorded one and 19.2% recorded two or more. It isnoteworthy that the percentages for the same group from the comparisonperiod are virtually the same: 35.5%, 42.7%, and 21.9%, respectively.These figures have several implications. First, for cases handled with a cita-tion, there will probably be an initial FTA. However, approximately 80% ofthe cases experience no more than one FTA. The ultimate disposition ofthese cases is discussed below. Second, given the similarity of the resultsbetween the two periods, the high FTA rate could have been anticipated.

Case disposition. To allow meaningful comparisons of case dispositionbetween the treatment and comparison cases, a cutoff date of October 27 ofthe following year was used for both groups. This would allow a minimumof approximately 10 months for the last cases selected to be disposed. Afterthis time frame, 75.3% of all cases with one or more of the target chargesduring the summons in lieu of arrest period had been disposed, whereas80.6% had been disposed in this time frame during the comparison period.In actual numbers, this translated to 1,209 cases in 2001 and 1,510 cases in2002 that were still unresolved by the end of October the following year.However, of the cases eligible for summons in lieu of arrest, 766 remainedopen for the comparison period, compared with 1,126 for the policyperiod—a difference of 360 more open cases after the same period.

Table 9 summarizes the nature of the outcome for cases reaching dispo-sition during the above described period. Both before and during the imple-mentation of the summons in lieu of arrest policy, the majority of all caseswith any eligible charge resulted in a dismissal of all charges. This per-centage was slightly higher during the policy period (52.9%) than duringthe comparison period (50.6%). The percentage of cases with at least oneguilty verdict decreased from 48.9% in the comparison period to 46.4%

Table 9Type of Disposition for All Cases With an Eligible Charge

Prior to Policy During Policy

Type of Disposition n % n %

All dismissed 2,535 50.6 2,422 52.9All not guilty 25 0.5 33 0.7Any guilty 2,447 48.9 2,126 46.4Total 5,007 100.0 4,581 100.0

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during the summons in lieu of arrest period, whereas the percentage ofcases with all charges not guilty remained about the same (0.5% vs. 0.7%).

Discussion and Conclusions

The target population for the policy was considerably smaller than antic-ipated. The original court order indicated that between 180 and 250 indi-viduals were charged weekly for the target offenses (26-36 per day). Thetotal number of cases including any one of the target offenses in eitherthe comparison or policy implementation periods almost approximated thelower of these two numbers but was not close to the 215 implied by thecourt order.

The court order further restricted applicability of the policy to arrestees“who are only charged with the following misdemeanor crimes.” Any caseinvolving any other arrestable offense was excluded, as were individualscharged by the officer with a felony version of any of the target offenses. Inaddition, individuals with outstanding warrants on other charges wereexcluded. These restrictions reduced the eligible cases to fewer than twothirds of all cases involving the target offenses. Taken together, the aboveconsiderations reduced the potential target population from the projected26 to 36 per day to fewer than 17 per day.

Implementation issues further complicated the picture. The police depart-ments in the county did comply substantially with the new policy. Of all caseswith the appropriate mix of charges, only approximately 20% involvedarrests and outright bookings during the first 8 months of the policy. This sug-gested approximately 80% compliance with the court order. Unfortunately,this was only an incremental change over existing practices. In the compari-son period, 1 year prior to the study period, 59.5% of the target cases involvedan arrest and outright booking, with the remaining cases handled in a wayconsistent with the summons in lieu of arrest policy. This further reduced thepotential of the policy to 60% of the target cases. When combined with theoverestimate of the target population, the potential impact of the new policyon the lockup population was only about 40% of the lowest original estimate,or 10 per day rather than the projected 26 per day.

The impact of the policy on the lockup population was measured in threeways: the number of cases booked into the lockup, total number of book-ings for eligible cases, and the number of bed days saved by the policy. Thenumber of cases booked at the lockup (outright or warrant initial booking)dropped 29.6% between the comparison and study periods. This decreaseof 1,482 cases amounted to 6.1 fewer cases booked at lockup each day.

Total lockup bookings for each case also declined following implemen-tation of the policy. During the study period, the total number of lockupbookings for all cases with at least one of the target offenses decreased by2,277 after the policy was implemented. Unfortunately, because the totalnumber of bookings for ineligible cases also declined, only about one half(53.5%) of this decrease was attributable to cases covered by the summonsin lieu of arrest policy.

Holding time at risk constant, the total number of bed days consumed bythese cases also decreased. For all cases involving at least one of the targetoffenses, the number of bed days decreased by 9,628 during an exposureframe of 544 days. However, only about 10% (963 bed days) of this declinecould be attributed to cases eligible for the summons in lieu of arrest policy.Even when accompanied by an arrest, the eligible cases in the comparisonperiod obtained release fairly quickly. Further reductions would be very dif-ficult. As it turns out, most of the reduction in bed days was attributable tochanges in the length of stay for the noneligible cases.

FTA and case disposition were also investigated as possible secondaryoutcomes of the summons in lieu of arrest policy. For eligible cases, thepercentage of cases with one or more FTAs increased from 51.5% in thecomparison period to 60.7% for cases initiated during the first 8 monthsof the policy. The corresponding figures for cases with one or more of thetarget offenses, but additional criminal charges, dropped from 42.2% to39.0%. This resulted in a net increase of 293 cases with one or more FTAs.

The primary change in case disposition was for the percentage with anydisposition. For both groups, the time available was held constant toapproximately 18 months from initial case selection. During this period, thepercentage of cases with any disposition decreased from 80.6% for thecomparison period to 75.3% for the cases initiated. Eligible cases experi-enced a similar decrease from 79% disposed to 72% disposed after thesame period. The net number of cases not disposed 18 months after thebeginning of the study period increased by 310 for all cases with one ormore of the target offenses. However, 360 more eligible cases remainedopen after comparable time frames.

Successful initiatives require both careful design and full implementa-tion. In the present case, the idea to control the county jail populationthrough a reduction in the number of arrests was a viable approach.However, the target population was overestimated, and many of the caseswere processed in compliance with the new policy even before it wasimplemented. Although the program evaluation literature is littered withexamples of programs or policies hampered by partial implementation, this

Baumer, Adams / Summons in Lieu of Arrest 401

was not the problem for this county. The effects of the new summons in lieuof arrest policy were in the projected direction, but the impact fell consid-erably short of expectations, primarily because of design and planning fail-ures. More detailed data analysis and planning could have identified theseissues during the policy formation period.

In the present case, the financial cost of implementation was minimal,and the substantive outcomes were small, but positive. However, it does notalways turn out this way. Substantially overestimating the size of the targetpopulation or not understanding the exact nature of current practice can, atbest, as was seen in this case, dilute the potential impact of a proposedchange. In other situations, the changes can be both financially and politi-cally expensive while making minimal improvement in the situation.


Blumstein, A. (1995). Prisons. In J. Q. Wilson & J. Petersilia (Eds.), Crime (pp. 387-419). SanFrancisco: ICS Press.

Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2005). Number of persons under correctional supervision [Table].Retrieved March 20, 2006, from

Cunniff, M. (2002). Jail crowding: Understanding jail population dynamics (NIC 017209).Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Corrections.

Cushman, R. (2002). Preventing jail crowding: A practical guide (NIC 016720). Washington,DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Corrections.

Harrison, P., & Beck, A. (2005a). Bureau of Justice Statistics bulletin: Prison and jail inmatesat midyear 2004 (NCJ 208801). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office ofJustice Programs.

Harrison, P., & Beck, A. (2005b). Bureau of Justice Statistics bulletin: Prisoners in 2004 (NCJ210677). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs.

Pretrial Services Resource Center. (2000). A second look at alleviating jail crowding: A systemsperspective (NCJ 182507). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of JusticePrograms, Bureau of Justice Assistance.

Tonry, M. (1990). Malign neglect: Race, crime, and punishment in America. New York:Oxford University Press.

Terry L. Baumer is an associate professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairsat Indiana University Purdue University, Indianapolis. He has published work in the areas offear of crime, electronic monitoring, and drug dependence in arrestees. He most recently com-pleted an evaluation of a new Arrestee Processing Center.

Kenneth Adams is a professor of public affairs in the College of Health and Public Affairs atthe University of Central Florida. His areas of expertise include mentally ill offenders, police–community relations, institutional corrections, and evaluation of crime control strategies, suchas gun control and juvenile curfews.

402 The Prison Journal

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