CALDWELL -- The Canyon County Sheriff's Office is again making a plea for more space to house inmates. Officials say the primary concern is a lack of space for women.
Canyon County has asked voters for funding to build a new jail before. However, the jail bond measure has failed three times, most recently in 2010.
Kieran Donahue has since taken over as sheriff, and says the jail-wide overcrowding problem continues and in some areas has increased. He says the overcrowding is magnified in the female population because of the jail layout and low number of available beds.
In the women's section, there are a total of 62 beds. Only five of the beds -- in four cells -- are for high-security inmates.
Sixty-two female beds in a (county) population of 200,000 is just not working for us, Donahue said. It's not working for the community. It's not working for the county. It's not working for public safety.
Because of rules that say female inmates can't come into contact with the male inmates, or even share a jail wall with the men, along with rules about square footage per inmate, Donahue says they can't increase beds in the current jail.
Realistically, with the daily caseload, the sheriff says there is enough need to house more than 100 women at a time. Since there are only 62 beds, that means the sheriff's and prosecutor's offices recommend to judges people who could be released to make room.
So they're home, they're somewhere being monitored, or not. They're waiting to come back, and do their adjudication process. They're not in here, Donahue said. If they're a home invasion person, if they're a burglary person, if they're a scrapper, if they're a drug dealer, if they're a DUI driver, they're out in your community, because we have no room for them here.
There has been talk of proposals to add to the current building, but Donahue thinks the current jail needs to be scrapped, and a new jail be built. He says a new jail with a better design could be expanded upon as population increases.
You could add all the shiny toys you want to this building. The core of this building remains the same. We still have to operate it. We still have to utilize it. And all those problems with our federal consent decree and the inadequacy of this building still exist, Donahue said.
The county owns 26 acres outside of Caldwell, and has jail plans drawn up from the last time they ran a jail bond. Donahue says he believes that's still the best option, though plans could be scaled down. Again, there is interest from some county officials that adding on to the current facility should be considered instead.