Jerome County Jail Debuts After 10 Years

JEROME, Idaho — Contractors are finishing up a few last-minute touches on the Jerome County Jail project before it debuts in Jerome in July.

Most of the construction is complete except for the backup generator, which needs to be in place before the city can issue an occupancy permit, reported Times-News. Sheriff Doug McFall originally planned to use a generator from the Clearwater County Sheriff’s Office, but the project team found coolant in the oil as it was being installed. Instead of having to rebuild the used generator, they ordered another one, which was shipped on June 16. McFall told Times-News that it will take a week or two to get up and running, which means inmates will be moved in some time in the coming wings.

The 135-bed facility has been in the works for 10 years, as voters rejected four bond proposals before finally approving $11.2 million bond in May 2013. The groundbreaking took place two years later on land that the county purchased for $340,000. Scott Hedrick Construction is serving as the construction manager, while Lombard-Conrad Architects (LCA) is serving as the architect. Both companies are based in Boise, Idaho.

The new jail will feature dormitory-style rooms that hold 12 to 15 inmates; 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 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.

The jail is being built to help ease overcrowding in the county; however, it will likely have way more space than the county needs, according to Times-News. As of early June, there were about 30 inmates in the old, 32-bed jail, which McFall said is lower than usual. It usually ranges from about 40 to 80. McFall told Times-News that he has been talking to other counties about the possibility of boarding inmates, but no permanent arrangements have yet to be made.

The state of Idaho, however, does plan to pay to house inmates in Jerome. As of early June, the state had 413 inmates out of 7,668 boarded in county jails, Department of Correction Spokesman Jeff Ray told Times-News. The state used to board inmates out of state, but brought them all back to Idaho a couple of months ago because of a declining prison population.

The state pays counties $45 per bed per night, according to Times-News. McFall expects the jail to house 30 to 35 state inmates, which he estimates after expenses will earn the county about one-third of a million per year. The money will go into the county’s general fund, and the commissioners will decide what to do with it. A few ideas have been discussed: using it to pay down the bond faster, putting it into a savings account for future expansion at the jail and using it toward general fund expenses, Board of County Commissioners Chairman Charlie Howell told Times-News.