CALDWELL — A jail planning firm recommends Canyon County needs a new, $200 million jail with 1,044 beds, which will meet population projections for the next 20 years.
DLR Group presented the findings of a monthslong study the county commissioned this year during a meeting Thursday.
The current Canyon County jail has a capacity of 477 beds now, but 122 of those beds are in a temporary tent facility.
The DLR Group recommended that the county, right now, should have 780 beds.
The firm considered factors including population growth, incarceration rates, average length of stay and the numbers of misdemeanor and felony crimes in determining the county’s needs.
The recommended jail would be about 300,000 square feet — more than the area of five football fields. The firm designed the jail to fit a county-owned property near the Notus exit of Interstate 84.
In addition to a greater number of beds, the new jail has room for programs that help reduce recidivism rates, something the current facility does not have room for. By using those programs and incarcerating the people who need to be incarcerated, Lori Coppenrath a principal with DLR Group, said the county will see benefits.
“The most important thing you can do is get people reconnected with services and agencies that can help them when they get out,” Coppenrath said.
If the jail plan goes through and a new jail opens in about three years, Coppenrath said the additional beds will fill quickly because of the need, but the jail will normalize in what is typically a four-year cycle. By incarcerating people who should be incarcerated, it’s more of a crime deterrent because people know they will go to jail, which is not the case now, she said.
The county currently does not have female work release, because there isn’t space available. The new jail would have room for both male and female work release programs.
The breakdown for inmate housing would be 108 beds in maximum-security housing, 344 in medium-security, 512 in low-medium and 80 in work release. There will also be housing for inmates with special needs included in those numbers.
DLR Group determined the existing Dale Haile Detention Center could be repurposed into office use for the sheriff’s office. The second floor would house the sheriff’s K-9 unit, and some cells would remain intact for inmates transported for court.
The cost for that comes in at about $22.5 million. Construction would not start on that until a new jail is opened and the existing jail is emptied.
The staffing costs for the new jail would not be far from what’s being used at the current facility. Although it doubles the capacity of the new jail, DLR recommends adding just 11 more people to the staff than what the county has now, because of the new jail’s design. That would be 173 people. The yearly cost to staff the new jail is projected to be about $12.9 million.
Controller Zach Wagoner broke down the costs to individual taxpayers of building the jail, should the county run a bond.
He said the bond would cost taxpayers $132 per $100,000 of taxable value. That would be on a 20-year bond with an interest rate of 5 percent.
The county has a total of $12 billion in taxable value.
Commissioners Pam White and Tom Dale voted to have the study completed earlier this year. Commissioner Steve Rule was not present for Thursday’s meeting. County spokesman Joe Decker said Rule did not attend because Rule did not support the study.
Rule said the question isn’t about what space is needed, but how to fund the new construction.
In comments after the presentation, White and Dale pointed to the public safety concerns associated with the current jail, which does not have enough beds to handle what the county needs.
White said the county has had some close calls with potentially bad outcomes, because of the problem.
“I don’t want to gamble with the lives of the people in Canyon County,” she said.
Dale said the jail issue is a need that will not go away and that has to be addressed. The longer it’s pushed down the road, the more the costs will grow.
“We do not have the option to do nothing,” Dale said. “The status quo is not acceptable.”
DLR’s presentation included a cost comparison over 20 years of building a new jail versus keeping things as they are. The cost of the status quo was $830.5 million, largely due to the rising costs of housing inmates outside of the county. The cost of the new jail over 20 years came out to $457.5 million.
Middleton Mayor Darin Taylor spoke in favor of the plan for the new jail after asking several questions about the cost and design during the presentation.
He said although the cost of building the new jail is a huge number, it makes more sense financially in the long term.
“It’s a clear, good well thought-out direction for the county to go when we’re considering individual taypayer dollars for the long-term,” Taylor said.
DLR Group will finalize the jail report and have a written copy sent to the county by Nov. 3.
About 20 people attended Thursday’s meeting, and some asked questions of DLR Group during the presentation.
Dale said the next steps in the process include community outreach and engagement in the project.
The county spent $250,000 on the study with the DLR Group. Once the results of the study are done, the county’s contract with DLR is fulfilled, Decker said.
If the county moves forward with getting bids to build a new jail, DLR could come in with a bid for that along with other qualified companies, Decker said.