Tracking code caldwell guardian

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

How Many Jail Beds Do We Have

The following is a GUEST OPINION submitted to THE GUARDIAN by Jim Rice. (The Guardian does not endorse political candidates but welcomes guest opinions that will further the public discourse on important issues of the day. The content is solely the opinion of Mr. Rice, you can draw your own conclusions from this posting.)THE GUARDIAN welcomes opposing views.

Canyon County Jail is two jails that are attached to each other. The oldest section opened in 1950 and will house about 100 inmates. The other section is the Dale G. Haile Detention Center that came on line in 1993 and per Sheriff Smith holds 357 inmates. In addition, we have a WORK RELEASE CENTER with a capacity of 224 beds and averages 100 empty beds per day per Sheriff Smith. Based upon his opinion printed in the IPT on March 16, 2008 the Daile G. Haile jail, on any given day, exceeds the 357 rated capacity by, "100 inmates or more." So,data from Sheriff Smith our jail capacity is 457 Detention Center jail beds, add to that 224 Work Release beds for a total of 681 beds.

Average sentence time in 2005 was 28 days and is now averaging 18 days in 2007. The result is,(in spite of a 20% increase in bookings), the average number of people held per day, including Work Release, Sheriff's Inmate Labor Detail. Juveniles, and those who are booked and released, has actually decreased from 831 in 2005 to 617 for last year.
Of course, we have to remember juveniles are held in the Juvenile Detention Center. Further, Inmate Labor Detail people do not stay in jail. Instead, they check in, do their assigned work and go home. Naturally, those who bond out or cited and released, do not occupy jail beds either. We now have to consider the 124 beds out of 224 that are used in the Work Release Center. We have to deduct some unknown daily body count number in excess 124 (the average count for the work release facility) from the stated booking numbers to arrive at how many people are actually in jail beds. (Talk about hiding the ball ) In 2005, when the sheriff and commissioners first tried selling us on a brand new $80 million dollar jail, we averaged less than 707inmates per day. Today, the numbers we average are 493 inmates in jail each day. To be clear, I have deducted the number of inmates (124) Sheriff Smith has assured us are held in the Work Release Center.

We can all agree we had an overcrowding problem two years ago, but whether we have substantial overcrowding now or not depends upon the UNKNOWN inmate numbers housed in Work Release Center beds.

The best answer for the roughly 25% drop in inmates can be attributed to our legislature and courts. In 2006 our legislative delegation secured three new judges for Canyon County, two Magistrates and one District Judge. The resulting efficiency improvements in our courts allowed us to get people to trial quicker. This means indigent people who can't afford to post bond do not stay in jail as long as they did two years ago. Our judges have worked hard to develop and implement methods to reduce jail stays using drug courts, supervised probation, and other alternative sentencing options. This drop in average sentences could have been even larger, but our commissioners have utterly failed to meet the court space needs of our judges so they can work at maximum efficiency. Factually, the greatest reductions in jail needs are accomplished by improving court efficiency. Our commissioners have made only token efforts to provide adequate courtroom space. Their main priority is dedicating millions of tax dollars to force a huge new jail project down our throats.

The old jail should be torn down and replaced. This would allow us to construct and infill the courtyard with permanent courtroom facilities on land we already own.
New jail space should also be built to replace what gets demolished and attached to the Daile G. Haile Detention Center. Storage and other needed improvements to the kitchen, laundry, medical and other jail functions could be done at the same time. A more reasonable increase in jail beds would be 300 to carry us well into the future.
The Work Release Center is underutilized. Many eligible inmates simply cannot afford to pay daily fees of $20/day and still support their families. If daily fees got reduced to the point that the Work Release Facility got fully utilized, we would save far more in new construction dollars and bonding interest charges than we would seemingly lose with reduced fees. It costs no more to operate the Work Release Facility half full than it does completely full. The current daily fee of $20/day is about to increase to $25/day by the commissioners at the request of Sheriff Smith. Raising the fees will only reduce the numbers of inmates that can afford Work Release. This serves to force more inmates into the Daile G. Haile Detention Center. I guess Sheriff Smith and the commissioners would rather have more overcrowding in the jail so we citizens can pay roughly $50/inmate/day ($54 in Ada County) for the influx of inmates not able to pay higher Work Release fees. The fees for Work Release sentencing should be decreased to the point they have it operating at full capacity. Think about how many Daile G. Haile Detention Center beds it would free up. It would be more or less revenue neutral to do this for the taxpayers.
We also need to think about taxpayer benefits of drug treatment for jail inmates as well as probationers. This is important because of the sheer numbers of inmates in jail for drug and other addiction issues. Treatment for addiction addresses the root source of the problem and would reduce overall present and future jail bed needs.

Jim Rice
Caldwell, Idaho


  1. work release fees haven't changed since George was in office. If he was so concerned about it, why didn't he lower the rates then? He had 12 years to do so.

    JUDGES sentence people to Work Release not the Sheriff. You know that Paul. The Sheriff does not have the luxury to decide. Get on the judges if you want those beds filled.

    Lastly, something else Paul Alldredge knows is it is a bad idea to mix classifications and causes HUGE security issues in any facility.

    Manipulating the facts again?

    God I hate politics.

    May the best liar win. I'm afraid that would be George.

  2. Note to sender of the above post...
    THE GUARDIAN did not write this post. It is a guest opinion submitted by Jim Rice.

    Please address your comments correctly...

  3. Just by the way, I am a second generation local attorney. The judges don't sentence people to the work release center. They sentence them to jail and then either they allow or don't allow work release as an option. The sheriff and the commissioners then control who gets work release by setting rules about how much the inmate has to pay and when in order to serve his time in the work release center.


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