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Tuesday, October 20, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Idaho

Commissioners mull $11 million “Band-Aid” for overcrowded jail

By Nicole Foy Idaho Press-Tribune

CALDWELL, Idaho – As the jail becomes more crowded, Canyon County may pay $11 million to install steel trailers in the jail parking lot to house female inmates.

The county is considering purchasing and building temporary inmate housing in the front parking lot of the Dale G. Haile Detention Center, similar to a facility built by All Detainment Solutions for a jail in Greene County, Missouri.

The Greene County jail houses over 100 inmates in six trailers made of stainless steel, Canyon County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Daren Ward said. A quarter-inch mesh net lined with razor wire surrounds the secure outdoor recreation area between the trailers, he said.

Ward, Cpl. Russell Bowers and lead jail technician Kelly Gardner toured Greene County jail’s temporary facilities in February in order to report back to Canyon County elected officials. Ward said because Missouri doesn’t have minimum jail standards, the facility would need to be modified to meet Idaho requirements.

In a Tuesday meeting with the Board of Canyon County Commissioners and several other elected officials, Ward presented a draft proposal and design of 28 temporary units that would house 122 inmates. The units would likely go in the jail’s main parking lot on North 12th Avenue and East Chicago Street in Caldwell.

Several options for leasing or purchasing the trailers cost about $11 million. Canyon County jail maintenance staff said installing the trailers in the parking lot would cost about $80,000 to connect utilities.

The temporary housing would be used exclusively for Canyon County’s female inmates, including those currently housed in the jail annex.

Of Canyon County’s 98 female inmates, 13 are in a jail annex and 18 are housed outside of the county as of Tuesday, according to Ward and the daily jail population report.

If commissioners decide to lease or purchase the units, Canyon County would close the annex currently housing female inmates for repairs, county spokesman Joe Decker said. The sheriff’s office would hire one new deputy and move two deputies to the temporary facility.

After completing repairs and general maintenance — which are difficult to complete because of crowding, Ward said — male inmates would be relocated to the annex.

Current housing conditions for female inmates

Ward told Commissioners Tom Dale and Steve Rule that the “continually rising” female inmate population was the biggest cause of concern for jail staff.

“We are over our target population and we are over our maximum bed population of females,” Ward said.

The jail has 62 standard beds for female inmates. Ward said staff were able to increase that to 76 beds by modifying the “annex 2” section of the jail. But Ward said annex 2 — built in 1948 — was “not optimal” for anyone to live or work in.

“Those 14 beds that we have down there, I have to have a female deputy work in because there is a direct line of sight into the toilets and shower areas,” Ward said. “So I’m tying up one of my female deputies there all the time.”

About all detainment solutions

All Detainment Solutions is a design and manufacturing firm based in Seymour, Missouri, and bills itself as the solution to jail overcrowding. Their website cites two decades of experience providing “mobile solutions” to various housing projects across the country.

All Detainment Solutions President Anthony Kelly declined to provide comment, telling the Idaho Press-Tribune he was not at liberty to discuss any of the company’s facilities while in negotiations or possible negotiations.

Greene County Jail approached All Detainment Solutions after seeing the mobile units they built for temporary housing after Hurricane Katrina, according to Ward.

Paying for it

Canyon County still faces some of the same problems with securing funding for the temporary housing as it has in the past trying to build or expand jail facilities. Since 2006 voters have twice declined to pass bonds that would have funded jail construction.

In lieu of any local option sales tax — which would not take effect until after the next legislative session, if it even passed — Canyon County Controller Zach Wagoner told commissioners the funds would likely come from property taxes and the county’s forgone property tax balance.

Each year the county can choose to increase its property tax revenue by up to 3 percent. When the county chooses not to take any or all of that 3 percent, it can go back in later years to collect these so-called forgone property taxes. The county has forgone $6.7 million in property tax revenue over the years that it could collect in future budget years.

Even if Canyon County were able to pass a bond or otherwise secure funding to build a new jail within the year, the county would still have to use the current facilities and the potential temporary housing for a few more years until the new jail was ready.

Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue said the temporary housing would reduce overtime expenses from jail staff, protect the county from future lawsuits and decrease the money and time spent housing inmates outside the county. Officials estimate housing inmates outside the county has cost $300,000 so far this fiscal year.

However, Donahue expressed concern that installing temporary housing would create the perception the jail’s crowding issues were solved.

“It is not a fix-all by any stretch of the imagination,” he said. “It is a Band-Aid on an hemorrhaging artery.”

Commissioners are scheduling a follow-up meeting that would include Caldwell officials and Commissioner Pam White — who was not present at the Tuesday meeting — to further discuss logistics and payment plans for the temporary facility. Although the county would need to obtain the proper building permits from Caldwell, the decision to purchase and secure funding for the temporary units would fall to county commissioners.

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