Canyon County voters reject $46 million jail bond

Credit: KTVB

Canyon County voters reject $46 million jail bond


by Edgar Linares
Idaho's NewsChannel 7


Posted on November 4, 2009 at 2:59 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 8 at 3:05 PM


CALDWELL -- Canyon County did not receive the amount of votes needed for the $46 million jail expansion.

The bond needed 66 and 2/3 percent of the vote to pass, but it only got 58 percent.

This was the biggest issue on the ballot for Canyon County voters Tuesday night.

County leaders say the jail is overcrowded and falling apart.

"We need to have adequate facilities to house, and to be able to rehabilitate and back out.  I think we don't have that right now," said a Canyon County voter.

But others say the jail bond would have weighed heavily on property taxes.

"I don't think that they're using our money right here in the valley," said bond opponent. 

"I just feel like we're already taxed a lot," said another bond opponent.

After the last vote was counted, the bond failed by almost 9 percent.

Canyon County Sheriff Chris Smith talked with us after hearing the news.

"The problem hasn't gone away. We still have a serious overcrowding problem," said Smith.

Smith says the jail was built in 1993 and has room for only 298 inmates and they're always at capacity. The bond would have built a high-tech facility where fewer deputies could oversee more inmates.

"Our back is up against the wall. We have no idea what we can do rather than run it again.  The stimulus money is only available to the end of 2010. The commissioners will have to make that decision," said Smith.

Many voters were pleased with the outcome.

"I'm OK with it.  I think people need to stay out of trouble and not be in jail," said Laura Martin, bond opponent.

"I heard of overcrowding. There shouldn't be any overcrowding. It should be dealt with," said Merle Hammons.

"We got nearly 7,000 warrants to be served, and I can't aggressively encourage officers to go serve those warrants if I don't have a place to put them," said Smith.

Smith says that millions are spent on criminal justice that generates offenders who need to do time. He says because of space, there are some who won't do the time even if they did do the crime.

The last time the jail bond was on the ballot in 2006, it failed by 9 percent.

Voters in Kootenai County also rejected a $57 million bond and half-cent sales tax to expand the county's jail.  It fell short of the
two-thirds supermajority needed to pass.

And in Jerome County, a plan for a 30-year, $13.5 million lease-to-purchase agreement for a 165-bed jail fell 1.16 percent short of the supermajority.