County Boards and the Crisis Inside Local Jails

People are dying around the country inside county jails with squalid and dangerous conditions. To the extent local officials are ever scrutinized for deadly and dehumanizing treatment in local lockups, coverage and organizing usually centers on the sheriffs who run most jails. But sheriffs often operate with impunity inside a broader ecosystem of county government—so what responsibility do county commissions and boards have?

Bolts this week is covering the crisis in local jails with a three-part series that delves into the role of the county boards that oversee them.


December 21, 2023

His Shock Win Flipped a Pennsylvania County. Now He Vows to Raise Hell over Its Lethal Jail.

Pastor and activist Justin Douglas will soon be plunged into an insider role, helping run the state’s capital county. Can he leverage his new power to change Harrisburg’s deadly facility?
Alex Burness,


December 22, 2023

Out of Sight

County officials have responded to an overcrowding crisis in Texas’ largest jail by shipping more people from Houston to far-flung, for-profit lockups with even worse oversight.
Michael Barajas,

Los Angeles

December 19, 2023

As Los Angeles Politicians Trade Barbs, Jail Deaths Keep Mounting

The LA County Board of Supervisors has done little to alleviate the crisis. Former Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who oversaw a string of deaths in custody, is now running to join it.
Piper French,