February 3, 2006 in Idaho

Work farm would help manage jail’s growth

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Kootenai County Sheriff Rocky Watson doesn’t want the inevitable jail expansions that will come with the area’s growing population to slowly eat up the county fairgrounds land next door to the jail in north Coeur d’Alene.

His long-term vision, perhaps within eight years, is to build a jail for sentenced inmates on county property next to the landfill near Fighting Creek. There’s enough acreage to establish a work farm – a place where inmates could till the soil and grow food for themselves. The inmates also could work at the landfill, sorting garbage and recyclables.

“To me that’s logical, and it would ease the mind of the fair board that we’re not going to keep coming,” Watson said.

The idea is to keep the majority of the inmates, who are still awaiting sentence and require frequent trips to the downtown courthouse, at the current jail on Government Way. The county would house the sentenced inmates – about 30 percent of the population – south of town at the work farm.

Watson wants the county to partner with the four other northern counties, and perhaps the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, to house their sentenced inmates and help with the cost of the facility and staff.

Shoshone County Sheriff Chuck Reynolds thinks it’s a fine idea. He has plenty of space in his jail now and even keeps about 38 state prisoners to help with the state’s overcrowding problem. But the Silver Valley is growing, and he thinks maybe within 10 years he will need some place to put sentenced inmates.

Kootenai Board of County Commissioners Chairman Gus Johnson also likes the idea of partnering. But it’s far off. Watson said the Kootenai County jail population must grow to about 1,000 inmates, of which about 400 would be sentenced, before it would be feasible. The current population is 380 inmates, so he estimates the work farm proposal is at least eight years off.


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