Why are some people taken to jail after an arrest, while others remain free?

Question:

Many factors influence the decision to take a suspect to jail, or issue a citation to appear in court.

Why are some arrestees taken to jail, while others remain free?

Answer:

While many suspects are taken to jail upon arrest, others receive citations to appear in court and are allowed to remain free in the interim. The factors that influence a police officer’s decision about taking an arrestee to jail include:

The seriousness of the crime. Suspects arrested for petty mis­demeanors (such as shoplifting) are less likely to be jailed than those charged with felonies or crimes of violence.

The suspect’s mental and physical condition. Police officers often jail suspects who cause a disturbance during the arrest process. Likewise, suspects who are a danger to themselves or others (such as a suspect who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol) are likely to be jailed upon arrest.

Jail conditions. Many jails are overcrowded, forcing police to cite and release suspects who might otherwise be taken to jail.

Police department policies. Police officers often have discretion to decide whether to jail a suspect, and each police department sets its own policies.

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