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Weld County Sheriff starts publishing names of judges who order inmate releases

The chief judge in Weld County said he supports transparency, but urged the sheriff to include more complete information.

GREELEY, Colo. — A new daily report posted to the Weld County Sheriff's Office website names the judges who authorize the release of a selection of inmates in an effort to boost "community awareness." 

"I think that there's this idea that the jail releases people," Jail Captain Matt Turner said. "While we are the last entity holding that person, at the end of the day we are not the one who makes that decision. A judge makes that decision."

"We want to make sure people are aware of what's happening," Turner said. 

Sometimes, he said, law enforcement is "shocked" by the release conditions. Many of the inmates in the new release report are given personal recognizance bonds, which don't cost money and rely on a suspect's word that they'll show up for a court date.

"The risk to that person is lessened, and in my opinion and in [Republican Sheriff Steve] Reams' opinion, the chance to re-offend could be increased," Turner said. 

In addition to the judge, the report also names the suspect, their charges, the type of bond and the amount. 

Judge James Hartmann Jr., the chief judge in Weld County, called for the sheriff to include information "on all the bond hearings held each day and not a select few."

"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," Hartmann said. 

Looking over a spare unit of the jail he oversees, Turner said he doesn't want to see the cells full, but he said publishing a report naming the judges will help the public understand why some suspects don't spend much time behind bars. 

"I believe what this report shows is a systemic issue," he said. 

Hartmann said each bond hearing is individualized and the courts consider the law, the facts of the case and arguments from the state and defense before deciding how to proceed.

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