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Jails emptied in the pandemic. Should they stay that way?

By the middle of last year, the number of people in jails in the U.S. was at its lowest point in more than two decades. That’s according to a new report published Monday by the Vera Institute of Justice, whose researchers collected population numbers from about half the nation’s 3,300 jails to make national estimates. The report was shared with The Marshall Project and The Associated Press. It says the number of people incarcerated in county jails across the country declined by roughly one-quarter, or 185,000, as counties aggressively worked to release people held on low-level charges, dramatically reduced arrest rates and suspended court operations to stop the spread of COVID-19.

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