CALDWELL — Canyon County jail administrative staff on Wednesday recommended not to proceed with a proposed addition to the county’s jail facility. The proposed addition could house 80 more inmates.
The recommendation was made during a presentation by the Sheriff’s Office to Canyon County Commissioners.
“It is a Band-Aid on a flowing artery,” Sheriff Kieran Donahue said.
The core issue is still the original building, the sheriff said, and a new addition would multiply problems, not solve them.
The jail has faced lawsuits from the American Civil Liberties Union concerning overcrowding, building maintenance, sanitation and outdoor recreation. The most recent suit was filed in 2011, claiming jail staff retaliated against prisoners after they filed grievances with county officials and courts.
Donahue noted the ACLU’s concerns and the high cost of operating the jail would not go away if the addition is built.
While numbers of general population inmates have gone down, the trend for maximum/medium custody males has risen, Ward said.
The proposed addition will allow increases for 24 maximum/medium custody cells and 56 general population cells, which won’t help address the need for more single cell units, Captain Daren Ward said.
The design plans for the addition would put male and female inmates too close together, Ward said. It would also create an almost around-the-clock outdoor recreation schedule that would result from the addition being built, Ward said.
Meals and laundry to the new facility would have to be transported through the booking area. That would increase foot traffic in an area already taking in new inmates, Ward said. It would also increase the risk of contraband being passed between inmates, he said.
Ward said the jail would require 15 new deputies to control inmates. Ward estimated the first year cost for these new staff members would be about $1.25 million with a $1 million annual price tag after that. Extra maintenance personnel and deputies in the facility’s control room would most likely be needed as well, Ward said.
If a brand-new facility was built rather than the addition, the Sheriff’s Office could take the staff it has, plus a few more, and operate under the new changes, Donahue said. They would not need the 15-19 new staff members that the addition would require, he said.
Donahue said he has not asked commissioners for a bond to build a new facility. He said that idea should be discussed in the near or extended future in order to have a long-term, sustainable solution.
The last time a bond to build a new jail was asked for in 2010, the proposal failed to receive the two-thirds super majority required to pass.
Donahue said while the questions surrounding the jail are not easy to answer, he would like to see a scaled back plan for a 600-800-inmate facility on the 24-acre property off U.S. Highway 20/26 that was purchased in 2007. That plan would incorporate future pods and add-ons that could be built when population needs dictate increases over time.
“We’re all in this together,” Donahue said. “Whoever lives here has a stake because that money costs us down the road, and we need to be good stewards of the taxpayers.”