Ask a Cop


Illustration: Sean Hennefer

Dear Cop,
I have a thousand questions, but will limit this inquiry to two. 

1. Are county jails required to keep “occupancy logs”?  I need to prove that a certain cell was empty in 2004.  Is there any such record?  And what is it titled?

2. A suspect is booked for a 3rd degree felony – obstruction of justice, and posts bail the same day – 5 g’s.  As bail is posted to ensure the suspect will appear in court – shouldn’t a case number be required before a bail bondsman will cough up 5 g’s?  Isn’t a case number mandatory prior to posting bail?

I have a feeling answering inquiries through the mail isn’t your job, but I hope an exception will be made in this instance to propel my investigation forward.  Thank you and SLUG for your time and consideration into this inquiry.  If you can’t respond I understand. 

Person who shall remain nameless.

Dear Nameless One:
Look, obviously from my ramblings in SLUG, I’m no jailer.  Jailers are law enforcement, but they’re not cops.  It’s kind of like the highway patrol.  They write tickets, but they aren’t cops.  So, I honestly know very little about jails and their operation or administration, and I certainly don’t know much about writing tickets.

What I do know about the different lock ups, besides how to put people in them, of course, is that all government agencies are regulated by the law and written policies.  That includes any county sheriff’s office that administers a jail.  Any time I’ve asked any county jail, or state or federal prison, for that matter, which prisoner was where or with whom on what date, they could tell me.

Whether they record information related to unoccupied cells, I have no idea.

For the less knowledgeable regarding penal institutions, county jails exist in each county to house prisoners convicted of misdemeanor crimes in that county up to one year.  They’re run and administered by the elected county sheriff.  Felons are housed in state prisons.  Now, the prisons don’t have enough room to house all yo’ bust’d asses, so they contract with the counties to hold their prisoners.  Federal convicts of crimes against the United States go to federal prisons.  However, they too can contract with state prisons and county jails to house their prisoners as long as they meet certain penitentiary criteria.

29 counties in Utah means 29 different jails with 29 different policies.  So, you’d need to contact the county you’re researching.

If someone were arrested and went through the booking process, which requires a bail for release, then some law enforcement agency and the prosecutor will have a case number. It doesn’t matter if it’s a misdemeanor, felony or federal crime.  The court that has jurisdiction over the crime has a case number as well.

Good luck in the pursuit of your Ph.D.

Illustration: Sean Hennefer