Idaho sheriff calls jail addition a ‘Band-Aid’

CALDWELL, Idaho — A plan to expand Canyon County Jail in southwest Idaho won’t solve some basic problems and would create more issues, Sheriff Kieran Donahue said.

“It is a Band-Aid on a flowing artery,” the sheriff told Canyon County commissioners at a meeting on Wednesday.

The proposed addition could house 80 more inmates at the jail that has faced lawsuits from the American Civil Liberties Union about overcrowding, the Idaho Press-Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/1gbIiz7).

Voters have repeatedly rejected proposals to pay for a new facility.

Donahue said the original building needs to be replaced and an addition wouldn’t eliminate many of the ACLU’s concerns or the high cost of operating the jail.

The proposed addition would increase the number of maximum and medium custody cells to 24. Another 56 cells would be added for general population inmates.

Capt. Daren Ward said the addition would put male and female inmates too close together and create an outdoor recreation schedule that would have to run nearly 24 hours a day. Meals and laundry would have to go through the booking area, increasing foot traffic and the risk of contraband being passed between inmates.

The addition would also require hiring 15 new deputies at a cost of $1.25 million to start and a $1 million annual cost after that. Ward said a new facility with a modern design would allow the staff already available, plus a few additions, to operate it.

Donahue said he would like to see a scaled-back version of a plan for a new facility on 24 acres the city bought in 2007 but hasn’t used because voters haven’t passed a bond to pay for a new jail.

“Whoever lives here has a stake because that money costs us down the road, and we need to be good stewards of the taxpayers,” Donahue said.

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