Troublemakers and weekend revelers helped set a record for crowding at the Kootenai County Jail last weekend.
So many people broke the law that by Sunday the jail was crammed with 171 inmates. By Monday, the numbers were down to 157. The last reported record was 162 inmates in April.
When asked how they fit so many people into a lock-down built for 123, Sgt. Al Tomasini joked, “We get a big shoehorn.”
In reality, jailers fill all the bunks and then start bedding down inmates on the jail floor. This spring, the jail added almost 30 bunks.
“Now that we have two bunks in most of the cells, it helps quite a bit,” Tomasini said.
Adding to the difficulty of housing everyone was the fact that many of them had been drinking.
“They’re a little more unpleasant and harder to handle,” Tomasini said.
Among the more than 60 people booked into jail were, “a lot of drunk drivers, a couple of drunk boaters, the normal weekenders,” said Capt. Ben Wolfinger.
Law enforcement officials are hoping the rainy weather continues or worsens for the Fourth of July.
“I’m one of the few people in the county who likes to see it rain on the Fourth,” said Sheriff Pierce Clegg. “For the most part it’s busy, busy, busy.”
Except for office workers, Clegg cancels all time off during the holiday, which tends to feature heavy drinking.
Last July, the jail was considered overfull with 159 inmates.
Crowded jail cells are not just a holiday problem, Wolfinger said.
“We’ve talked with the (Kootenai County) commissioners about doing a minimum security facility or work release program,” he said. The minimum security would be for people unlikely to escape, such as those serving weekend sentences, he said.
“If those people were going to escape, they wouldn’t show up,” he said.
Last weekend’s flood of inmates was not surprising to jail officials, who predicted the onslaught when they hit their last record in April. Summertime usually is busier, they said.