ST. CLOUD -- A national study has shown a major spike in the number of inmates being held in county jails over the last several decades. The Vera Institute of Justice studied statistics dating back to the 1970's and have found 44% of all inmates are now being held in county jails. That's up from 28% in the late 1970's.

In Stearns County, there were 6,800 inmates in 2011, almost 7,200 in 2012 and 2013. But, that number fell by about 450 inmates in 2014.

Stearns County Attorney Janelle Kendall says they developed a Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee to help identify which offenders should be jailed and which should get other penalties. Kendall says the focus has been on jailing inmates that pose a risk to public safety, not those who are eligible for other types of sentences like fines, corrective programs, community service and others.

Other potential reasons for a decline in Stearns County's jail population is the Drug Court which works to rehabilitate users and the Domestic Violence Court which works uses jail and intervention to prevent abusers from re-offending.