Jerome County Constructs New Jail

JEROME, Idaho — Construction on a new jail in Jerome County began in March. As reinforced concrete walls start to rise, the project remains on track for a February 2016 completion date.

The project has been in the works for 10 years, reported the Associated Press. Voters rejected four bond proposals before finally approving an $11.2 million bond in May 2013, two years before the ground breaking took place. The county paid $340,000 to buy land and signed a $10.8 million contract with Scott Hedrick Construction to serve as the construction manager, reported Idaho Statesman, and Lombard-Conrad Architects (LCA) is serving as the architect on the project. Both companies are based in Boise, Idaho.

The new jail will help ease overcrowding in the county and end the need for the county to ship inmates to jails in surrounding areas. The current jail has 32 beds, but sometimes houses up to 80 inmates at a time. The county has to pay neighboring jails to house these extra inmates, so the new jail could end up saving the county $250,000 a year. In fact, because the new jail will be four times larger than the existing one, Jerome County might be able to house surplus inmates from other counties.

The new jail is budgeted at $12.1 million, reported Times-News. It will house 132 inmates and feature dormitory-style rooms that hold 12 to 15 inmates, reported Idaho Statesman. Higher-risk inmates will go into smaller cells with two beds.

It will also feature a women’s cellblock, with two 12-bed pods designated for women and female isolation restrictive housing to fit three more women for a total of 27. That’s significantly more than the eight that the current jail can house. Currently, women inmates are generally housed in the jail’s library before they are moved to another facility, according to Times-News.

In addition to the cellblocks, the new jail will house all of the sheriff’s operations, including driver’s license services. It will also include a sallyport as well as a work release area. The improved safety and disability access will bring the new jail up to Idaho Sheriff’s Association jail standards.

Not only will the new jail solve overcrowding problems, but it will also solve several safety issues at the current jail facility. For instance, it will be safer once it gets a sallyport because the current jail doesn’t have a secured area for buses or cars that are transporting inmates. Some hallways are also so narrow that an inmate can reach through the bars and touch anyone who is walking by. Plus, the waiting room at the current jail had glass installed the wrong way so that inmates can see the staff, but the staff can’t see the inmates.

In addition to the cellblock walls being built, wires have now been installed in the future electrical area of the prison, which will also house laundry and the kitchen, according to Times-News. After inmates are transferred to the new jail and staff moves out next spring, the current jail and sheriff’s office will be used for storage.