Kootenai County has faced a jail crowding crisis for years, and now county officials are moving ahead with a plan to hire a private company to build a 621-bed jail.
The county would lease the facility under a plan being considered by county commissioners.
The public-private partnership follows years of efforts to build a new jail capable of housing Kootenai County prisoners.
Voters in the past have rejected three bond measures to finance a new jail.
The jail would be built by Facilities Management LLC/Rocky Mountain Corrections and leased to the county for $5.4 million a year. The company is based in Ketchum, Idaho.
The size of the jail would allow Kootenai County to stop spending $800,000 a year to house surplus offenders at other jails in the region.
Kootenai County would be able to offer space to other agencies in the region, which would help the county finance the lease costs, Sheriff Ben Wolfinger said.
Spokane County could be one of the agencies that uses the jail for housing.
The current Kootenai County Jail has space for 325 inmates.
Wolfinger said Kootenai County has seen a trend in its jail population that’s similar to what’s occurring in Spokane: more felons are making up the population.
Also like Spokane, the North Idaho county has developed a series of alternatives to incarceration, including programs to divert misdemeanor offenders to those alternatives. The county has expanded its work programs for offenders, Wolfinger said.
A public hearing on the jail proposal is scheduled before county commissioners at 6 p.m. May 12 on the first floor of the county administration building, 451 Government Way in Coeur d’Alene.
– Mike Prager