Regional Jail Could Solve Crowding Woes

handcuffs1Instead of asking Canyon voters to pony up for a new jail, we would suggest that Sheriff Chris Smith follow his own advice and go for a regional jail somewhere near the Ada-Canyon county line.

Smith is an advocate of regional jails and wrote an article for the Idaho Sheriff’s Association Magazine on the subject. See the complete text at the end of this post by clicking on (MORE).

Done right, Ada, Canyon, and the Idaho Dept. of Corrections could join forces and save everyone a lot of money and provide a secure facility to house longer term offenders who have been sentenced or await trial unable to post bond. The idea is to build a facility that won’t require daily traffic back and forth to court. It would take a joint powers agreement and probably operate on a “per bed” basis for operating costs.

Voters from each county would need to approve the long term debt (bonds), but with two counties sharing the burden, it should be very affordable and appeal to voters…not unlike the College of Western Idaho vote as we see it.

Ada Sheriff Gary Raney is onboard Smith’s idea in principal and notes he will soon need additional space in his jail. Both lawmen are eagerly awaiting one of those infamous “feasibility studies” on the topic of “Regional Offender Management Centers”–JAILS to crooks and non-coppers. The study, being conducted by a BSU professor will undoubtedly endorse the concept. The trick will be in the politics of getting two counties and the state to buy in.

We like the idea and can’t understand why Smith didn’t push for it instead of trying to build his own jail. What with illegal land purchases, expenditure of funds for a new jail BEFORE the bond was voted upon, a lawsuit by the ACLU which is billing Canyon about $180,000 for legal expenses, and coppers campaigning on government time, the stand alone Canyon jail as proposed was doomed to fail.

It was sold as a scare tactic to keep bad guys from being turned lose on society, but we doubt they opened the jailhouse doors to many dangerous crooks. Based on booking records we saw, there were a lot of driver’s license and insurance offenders who got jailed.

Smith’s plan follows and it deserves to be considered BEFORE another bond election or the idea will never get voter approval.

Regional Jails
Has the Time Come?
by Sheriff Chris Smith

I have seen many changes in my 34 years in law enforcement service: growing populations in our communities, technological advances, increased drug activity; the list is long.

Each change has a related cause and effect on both public safety agencies, and citizens they serve and protect. Increased crime rates are influenced by growing populations, and higher crime rates cause the need for more law enforcement officers. More law enforcement officers contribute to more offenders being arrested. More arrested offenders cause the need for larger holding facilities. The need for more holding facilities requires increased revenues, and herein lies the problem.

Counties invest millions of taxpayer dollars in public safety each year. The public demands accountability and safety as they should, but when a larger jail is needed to accommodate public safety, taxpayers balk. Google “jail bond issues” and you will find that counties around the nation are having the same debate. They need new jails because of either outdated, unsafe facilities, or overcrowding, and in most cases, both. Taxpayers need and deserve to be presented with data to justify the need for government wanting more of their hard-earned money. This is true whether on a local or national level. But even with justification citizens are less open to spending the funds necessary to build new jails in the current downturn in the economy.

The state of Idaho, the Idaho Association of Counties, and the Idaho Sheriffs’ Association have recently begun meetings to discuss the concept of regional detention facilities: combining state and county resources to provide incarceration and treatment programs to offenders on a shared basis. These future facilities are referred to as Regional Offender Management Centers and part of the mission statement of the committee studying the concept states “The goal is safer communities through the creation of partnerships that utilize the taxpayer dollars more efficiently and effectively”.

We understand the problem. Jails throughout Idaho are outdated, overcrowded and/or underfunded. Now is the time to speak of solutions and one approach is the regional jail or Regional Offender Management Center. American Corrections by Clear and Cole defines a regional jail as a facility that would operate under a joint agreement by two or more government units, with a governing board made up of representatives from participating jurisdictions and having authority over policy, budget, operations and personnel.

The participating agencies share decisions and must work together on issues related to location of facilities, proportionate sharing of cost, governance, and management. Idaho successfully utilizes regional incarceration facilities for juveniles and has one example of a regional jail between Cassia and Minidoka County that demonstrates the effectiveness and efficiencies of consolidation.

Regional jails operate successfully across the United States and in foreign countries. These jails can be used as models and we can learn from their successes as well as their mistakes. We can also continue to explore taking the regional jail notion to the next level by working on the Regional Offender Management Center concept with the Idaho Department of Correction.

With the closing of several jails in Idaho counties due to age and the need for larger jails in other counties to satisfy inmate growth, now is the time to join forces as sheriffs and promote regional incarceration centers. A sheriff’s primary obligation is to keep their citizens safe and we must have adequate incarceration facilities to hold and hopefully rehabilitate offenders in our custody. With changing times, we must embrace new ideas and build solutions to accommodate Idaho’s inmate population, and I believe the time for action is now.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Dave you’re on the right track and then off the track. We need to question the basic assumption of “who” needs to be incarcerated before we automatically conclude that we need a new jail. Smith operates from the perspective that everyone in his jail needs be be locked up, and that is ludicrous. Of the 352 people Smith has locked up, only 44 (12.5%) are violent offenders. The rest are probation violators, and dope smokers.

    Those people can and should be dealt with administratively. Locking them up does nothing to “keep people safe” as Smith alleges, does nothing to relieve these people from their drug and alcohol addictions, and is obviously not providing a deterrent since these people are multiple “offenders.” So what we have here is a complete failure of public policy. You don’t fix a policy failure by building jails – communally or otherwise. If this is not sustainable for one county, soon it won’t be sustainable for all of us. Time to get to the root of the issue, not spread the fiscal pain across the various entities.

    EDITOR NOTE–OK. We were trying to be nice, using the argument that if a new jail is really needed, it should be a regional one. You say it is poorly run. We hinted that there were a lot of driver license violations.

  2. How about a seasonal jail like Sheriff Joe’s outdoor one? Schedule those minor 3 month offense for the fair weather and set up a tent city.

    A regional jail also sound good in order to cut overhead. While we are at it, how about a regional government?

  3. Flyonthewall
    Nov 9, 2009, 9:17 pm

    Sheriff Smith was waving the fact that Canyon County has 7,000 outstanding warrants as a big deal and fact to support a new jail.

    Ada County has around 10,000 outstanding warrants.

    How about they take and post the Name and DOB for all the warrants they have outstanding in the local papers. It would be interesting to see how many people would step up and get the warrants cleared on their own.

    Warrants are not something useful to justify building a new jail. Petty stuff and forgotten court dates for the most part.

  4. Unfortunately most of the other crimes like Burglary , Theft, etc. are being committed by Meth users and parole violators. Probation means they were let out early if they promise to play nice. They didn’t play nice and broke more laws and got violated. So what do you do with them? Yes the system is broke, but you don’t fix it by denying the problem is there. One thing I would ask you to recognize is the fact that Canyon County has a lower ratio of beds than the national average, Joe Arpaios average, and even some progressive European countries! It is terribly undersized for the community it serves.

    National Average 7/1000
    Joe Arpaio 3.8/1000
    U.K. 2.2/1000
    Canyon County 1.9/1000

    Just to bring Canyon County up to at least the same amount of beds available to Joe Arpaio is what Smith asked for at this last bond election. He did not ask for anything unrealistic, but was criticized heavily for it.

    What model should Canyon County follow? No jail at all?

    There isn’t room for any programs designed to reduce recidivism. Imagine being criticized by taxpayers for not attempting rehabilitative efforts when the taxpayers wont pass a bond so you can offer those services. It’s kind of a catch 22 situation.

    That tent workout center is a joke too because you can’t realistically house anyone with a classification level higher than threat level comatose. You could escape from there in under 1 minute with nothing more than your bare hands. Yep thats secure all right.

    Idaho Jail standards shoots down tent city before it even gets off the ground. I see what you guys are saying but it’s a little more complex than that. Each problem is interrelated with other problems. Unfortunately different groups want different outcomes and nobody can seem to agree on which way to go.

    I don’t see the problem getting solved any time soon.

  5. It would be cheaper to impound the cars of car crimes and make the perps work the ticket off helping the homeless or pulling goatheads.

    These guys would fill the place with pot smokers, jaywalkers, and bums. As long as the beds are full they can scream for more space and taxes to keep our community safe.

    What you won’t see locked up are the white collar criminals, gun violators, or environmental polluters. Not considered crime in Idaho.

  6. Why would you make it seasonal? Call Arpio(sp) and ask him where he got the tents. These places are supposed to be where someone does NOT want to be!!

  7. Cyclops: True, but looks bad if a bunch of jaywalkers and check kiters freeze to death during their brief stay in the tents. Besides, then we’d have to pay to bury them.

    On another note, i kind of like the “catch and release” method in Canyon county, in case I ever screw up and break some misdemeanor law.

    (Some years ago, when Ada was wanting to build a new jail — which I suppose is now considered an old jail — a proponent of the plan told me that unless the bonds were approved, “You might have to wait months, or even years, before you could go to jail.”
    Huh? Was that supposed to be the downside?

  8. It does not matter what kind of system is developed, regional or local, but as Chris noted in a previous post, how the jails are run – i.e. who is incarcerated matters. Jails are incredibly complex. They are composed of the guilty, those awaiting sentencing, those unable to post bond because they are poor, the mentally ill, work release, probation/parole violations, men, women, juveniles, etc. But the bottom line is that not everyone arrested has to be taken to jail. The vast majority can be safely managed in the community.

  9. Chris, I agree. The war on drugs is bankrupting us. Unfortunately our politicians (at all levels) are a parochial bunch not given to creative thinking or getting to the root of problems.

  10. Flyonthewall
    Nov 10, 2009, 2:55 pm

    I learned today the Feds are paying Canyon County $62/day for jail beds that cost county residents $84/day! Add to this the illegals occupy on average 60 beds a day. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the math on this deal. Quit housing illegals and use the beds you own for your problems.

  11. Rod in SE Boise
    Nov 10, 2009, 3:37 pm

    Let me be the first (and probably the last) to suggest expanded use of the death penalty.

    Many of the other commenters are correct, especially about who needs to be incarcerated (or not), and what is illegal that should be legal.

    Our criminal justice system seems to be incompetent at identifying the mentally ill and treating them accordingly.

  12. The biggest problem here is the judge himself. How much does he pocket filling another bed? Why a homeless locked in jails? Why a petty criminals in there as well? What are all these reform programs doing for individuals when the judge only knows he can squeeze one more in rather than believing the reform programs have done their job. The reform facilities must feel very unaccomplished after watching their work return to jails rather than having a chance to return to the community. Jails harden criminals and when they do get out their opinion of our legal system only makes them more spiteful.

    Joe and Jane public are far less safe with that cycle.


  13. sam the sham
    Nov 10, 2009, 5:59 pm

    what do the voters have to do with anything?
    There are tax payers, but their job is to pay their taxes and keep to themselves. No complaining – well, that’s ok since they only talk amongst themselves…no one else listens except when it comes time to make false promises and hope that the taxpayers do not have the time to VOTE and thus become those pesky things called voters.

    overheard in the Senate bathroom by watching hand signals and tapping feet between stalls.

  14. I think you kind of hit on an issue but missed something there Flyonthewall. Many of those immigration holds are also being held on local criminal charges as well which must be resolved before they can be deported.

    Very few, less than 10 if I am not mistaken, are there solely on an Immigration hold as their sole charge. These people had a hold placed on them by Immigration after they were in jail and identified as being illegals.

    A lot of these local offenses are offenses which could be resolved fairly quickly as they are crimes against the state and are considered “victimless” crimes.

    I think the Prosecutors office could help the situation by identifying these folks and getting their local charges dropped or reconciled as quickly as possible so their deportation proceedings can move forward and they can be removed from the facility more quickly.

    Honestly, Does anyone really care if an illegal picked up for Driving without Privileges serves time in jail for his crime. I think a greater justice is served if we just drop the issue and send him back to Mexico on the next available bus.

    Regarding rehabilitation programs,
    Taxpayers feel disenfranchised about the whole situation because they have been let down so many times before. All they see is waste. The by product of that is a huge sense of distrust. If you ask for the money to implement these programs nobody wants to give it because they don’t trust their government anymore. So what do you do about it? Taxpayers are simply more cynical nowadays, and for good reason. Let’s just hope they haven’t given up and still entertain some hope things can change. One thing I can assure you of though is that it won’t change until the taxpayers allow it to.

    There has to be a clear sense of unified purpose in the community that they rally behind and endorse.

    All I see is a divided community and there are three different camps firmly entrenched in their positions and none are willing to budge one inch to reach a resolution.

    1) We have the Education and social re-engineering camp.

    2) The Decriminalize dope and driving offenses camp.

    3) and the inmates don’t deserve a real roof over their head while soldiers are fighting overseas, let’s put them in a tent city camp.

    When the community as a majority is ready to decide where it wants to go next and how it wants to deal with this problem is when we will see progress. Politicians may think they are in charge of policy making but it is really the community which influences the direction of those policies.

  15. Rod in SE Boise
    Nov 11, 2009, 11:54 am

    :>) How do you prounounce that?

    Anyway, he or she or it is right. This country is deeply divided, you might even say fragmented. We can’t even agree on whether it’s less filling or tastes great.

  16. Flyonthewall
    Nov 11, 2009, 1:27 pm

    The genius management at the Canyon County Jail gets $62/day from the Feds for jail beds that cost county taxpayers $84/day. The average is 60 beds a day they rent to the Feds! This alone is outrageous. Now I see on the local TV NEWS KIVI last night all the hand wringing over having to go to Elmore County and rent beds for $42/day or worse yet rent them from Ada County for $62/day by Sheriff Smith. Kick out the illegals and hand them over to the Feds or simply unlock the door and let them go like they have in the past. Why lose $22/day on beds you need for locals who get DUI’s and drive with no license.

    Add to all of this the Canyon County Sheriff thinks regional jails are great for everyone but him and Canyon County. The Commissioners are also echoing this as well. Every little government entity wants to cash in and spend money we don’t have.

    Get the illegals bundled up and on a bus (or plane) and drop them off at the southern most end of Mexico or where they came from if it isn’t south of the border.

    I know of no country I can travel to without proper ID and a Passport in my possession at all times. Political will in this country needs some backbone.

  17. Ok, Calm down Flyonthewall, don’t get your blood pressure up.

    I don’t understand your latent hostility but I’ll try to explain some things for you to alleviate some of your concerns.

    I don’t understand where you say it’s costing the county $84.00 per day per inmate. That seems like a very high number. Last figure I heard being tossed around was $45.00 a day. I’m just curious what source you are citing is all.

    While an illegal is being housed on criminal charges, you can’t charge the feds. They are your problem. Once they are done with those charges then you can start billing the Feds for housing their immigration problem.

    I agree with you that they should clear any charges pending against illegals to expedite their deportation process so space isnt being wasted on housing illegal aliens whether the beds are paid for or not.

    The regional jail idea is a study that the Idaho Sheriff’s Association is working on as we speak. It is nowhere close to being done yet.

    Sheriff Smith has stated publicly that he thinks the Regional Jail concept could be a progressive move that could benefit many counties.

    He never said it wasn’t right for Canyon County. He didn’t pitch the idea to the taxpayers yet because the study is still ongoing.

    I like the idea of the southern most end of Mexico as a drop off point. Maybe then they won’t beat the bus back to Idaho!

  18. Flyonthewall
    Nov 11, 2009, 8:25 pm

    The $84/day number to house inmates at the Canyon County Jail comes directly from Commissioner Kathy Alder. I agree it sounds high but when you get the info from the people incharge you have to think they know the deal.

    Again, and I am not about to pop a vein over this, why is the brain trust running the jail in Canyon County making the Feds a deal at $62/day for beds that cost taxpayers $84/day?

    It seems pretty basic to me. If they can rent beds in Elmore County for $42/day, why are they whining about needing a new jail when they can rent beds for half price a few miles down the road? Isn’t capitalism founded on the low price guy gets the business?

    Sheirff Smith does not appear to have his back to the wall on this as stated on the KIVI News last night. He even shut down Mr. Boise Guardian on his plea to get with Sheriff Rainey of Ada and work out a Regional Jail deal. He thinks they are a great idea for everyone but himself.

    :>) call 454-7300 and ask for Comm. Alder and she will tell you the cost per day to keep someone locked down in the Canyon County Jail. Wonder what the true cost of the Ada County jail is per day?
    It is figured by taking the Jail Admin and Labor budget plus the Jail Maintenance and upkeep Budget and divide by the number of beds

  19. Interesting how they came to that number. Thanks for the clarification. I can see how now that the commishes are actually having to do maintenance work instead of ignoring the jail how that figure can skyrocket when you take into account Jail Maintenance. I’ll ask Kathy for more on this the next time I see her.

    I don’t know why anyone would make a deal for less but I would rather they made no deal at all and just didn’t house illegals for the feds leaving room for our real criminals. Immigration is the feds problem. The feds need to build their own facilities.

    I spoke with Chris Smith about regional jails and I think you have the wrong impression about him. He’s all for them but he doesn’t have all the answers to proceed. It’s all still a very rough idea and this type of project could take several years to get going and they are nowhere near putting something like this in front of the voters for a bond election. All he can really do is finish the research, publish and leave it for the next sheriff because his term will be up. If you think he was crucified in this last bond election, just imagine if he proceeded before he had all his ducks in a row on something like this!

  20. Flyonthewall
    Nov 12, 2009, 2:52 pm

    Regional jails are used all over the country and the details are not new ground to probe and ponder. All you have to do is review what is already out there and try to improve on what already exists. They don’t have to reinvent the wheel to get this done. All they have to do is get Ada, Canyon and IDOC to agree and get the voters to buy in on the deal.

    Seems to me there would be some economies of scale with a multi-county lockup. Clearly a reduction in the duplication of admin. payrolls, facility located to cut down on travel, state of the art facility to house the largest numbers of inmates with the least amount of help and the list goes on and on.

    Taxpayers know they have to fund undesirable services like jails but the people in charge have the responsibility to do it for the least amount they can to keep taxpayers content. This latest jail bond started off with illegal purchases of land, engineering and furniture that got stolen. It was for lack of a better word BUNGLED.

  21. So you are all for Regional Jails now?

    I am getting confused again.

    You previously stated “Add to that the Sheriff of Canyon County is on record at the Idaho Sheriff’s Association website proffering the notion of a Regional Jail and “NOW IS THE TIME”. The plans for this jail project will be 2,000 beds when totally complete. OINK OINK!”

    Up to this last election you were against everything about the jail bond. Your statement above is pretty clear. Oink, Oink?

    Were you suggesting he was trying to build this regional jail at canyon county taxpayer expense but is now opposed to it? Your going in circles.

    I am sorry “Flyonthewall” but you seem to be flip flopping on the issues here. There is one common theme in all of your arguments to date though. All of your arguments indicate you believe Chris Smith is to blame for it all and he is the reason for all your troubles.

    It seems you tailor your posts to always represent him and the Sheriff’s Office administration in the worst light possible.

    What I have noticed from all your posts is you extremely dislike Chris Smith for some reason. I also know you are or have been a county employee as well.

    So why do you so intensely dislike Chris Smith and the Sheriff’s Office so much? You obviously are not a deputy otherwise you would have real facts and not this innuendo and rumor you keep spreading.

    I mean really, when I get to see a lot of what you are talking about first hand on a day to day basis, and your version does not resemble what I have seen first hand, I kind of get the feeling you have an axe to grind.

    If you would like I can arrange for you to see all our facilities both inside and out. After all I really don’t see how you can form these opinions without firsthand knowledge of the facts. The offer stands unless of course you’ve already made up your mind.

    Honestly “Flyonthewall”, all these arguments you just presented are what Chris Smith has been saying all along. I’m beginning to think you are just a disgruntled former employee.

  22. Flyonthewall
    Nov 12, 2009, 8:55 pm

    There is a huge difference between Canyon County taxpayers footing the bill and SHARING the expenses for building, operating and maintaining a regional jail.

    I think people would buy into the concept of a regional jail as long as it is moved forward as a shared expense. Ever go out to dinner and get stiffed with the bill. That is how the 2,000 bed jail project appeared to a lot of taxpayers.

    I do not dislike Sheirff Smith. He and his people do a good job for the county. They just need to manage the assets they have properly and not let them get to the point of a lawsuit from the ACLU.

    The Sheriff’s main responsibilty is to be a servant of the court. I respect that responsibility and the people who carry it out on a daily basis.

  23. Just for Rod…..
    :>) sideways smiley face
    :>O sideways shocked face
    :>( sideways frowning face

    Back to Flyonthewall…
    “ The Sheriff and Commissioners can cling to the mega-jail complex out of town or they can come back to the voters with a scaled down project next to the courthouse and it might pass. This bond would not have passed even if the state legislature lowered the super majority to 60% like Mr. Luna wants to happen. I think the voters are telling the commissioners their pie in the sky jail complex will be dead on arrival until they float the right project at an affordable cost.
    Flyonthewall – 9:16 AM, Wednesday November 4, 2009

    Pie in the sky mega jail complex? Is that the regional jail you are referring to?

    Build next to the Courthouse? Ok so we are off regional jails again?

    Why do you assume the sheriff and his people you respect have mismanaged the jail and it’s resources?

    If you don’t work in the jail how can you honestly make a statement like that? I’m just saying come on down and see for yourself, you might be surprised. Then again it might be exactly what you think it is. Either way, you can speak from experience then. Once again the invitation is open.

    I can tell you from first hand experience all the problems the jail suffered were from overcrowding and overuse of the facilities. The Sheriff tried to fend off these problems, but the courts, commissioners etc. turned a deaf ear to him. It wasn’t until the ACLU forced them to take notice of the conditions did things begin to happen.

    Add to the problem a multi-year economic crisis, slashed budgets and refusal to spend the money to fix these facilities and you have your explanation as to how it all happened. We can’t do much about these problems when we have no control over those assets.

    Building maintenance has control over the building repair budget. When they got their budget slashed, suddenly they couldn’t even replace light bulbs for us anymore. Building maintenance complained the jail was becoming too expensive to maintain and if they fixed what we asked for, they would run out of money and wouldn’t be able to repair other buildings. Now I can appreciate their problem but that doesn’t solve our problem now does it. Imagine being responsible for something but not having direct control over it.

    Come on Flyonthewall, Nobody tried to make the taxpayers pay for a regional jail funded by Canyon County taxpayer dollars as you have been suggesting. Whoever is telling you that is outright lying to you.

    We are doing the best with what we got and folks keep telling us it’s not enough. They tell us to take away the weight rooms for inmates. These facilities don’t exist in Canyon County. They want us to take away their individual Cable TV in every cell and stop paying for Showtime and HBO. Again that does not happen at Canyon County either. Much of what people think is reality, they got from watching TV and is nowhere even close to reality.

    I’m sorry if I have been too harsh on you but maybe your just venting against a broken system. I can understand that but please remember we are people who actually take pride in the fact we are doing a much better job with so much less than you think we actually have than you are giving us credit for.

    Whether you believe it or not, we are trying to save you money.

  24. Speaking of Saving Money there is a problem with this Judicial system and incarcerations that don’t need to be happening due to a particular Judge who is mandating Riders as a second chance but has no intention of release their infractions no matter how well they do in Cottonwood. It is also know as NICI and is primarily run by ex Marine. Many inmates don’t make it past the first three weeks. Many are sentence there for three to six months dependant upon the infraction within the Felony court.
    For those who do make it seeking to comply and reform life changes but may have a couple of imperfections of speaking on the side walk, taking a jolly rancher from another in mate, having three razors instead of two that are allowed and all write up infractions. The Judge determines these infractions are entitlement to additional time in Ada County once more and then SICI. There is no respect of pre-sentencing Investigators employed by the state that the individual should not be incarcerated long term but recommends the individual seek local counseling with a local center is presented to the Judge but ignored. He sentences the individuals anyway. There is no consideration by the Judge from the Professional Counselors within NICI that the individual has made great strives and progress who recommend Probation as well. Attorney recommend release due to reform and progress. The Judge ignores all associates recommendations and sentences the individual to another 1 + years because …. The people he is continuing to re-incarcerate are non-violent offenders. There is something very wrong with this picture here. You want more jails and prisons? Take a look around you and think twice on who’s twisted in this picture. You build them up to Tear them down once more.

  25. Excellent point Mark 56 and a part of the message I am trying to get across.
    It is also know by many that ICC is owned and run by a contracting company and that Judges can and do own stock in this company. Therefore for every inmate they can incarerate it is an investment of their own interst instead of the individual inmate. Would anyone propose that this could be a Legal Conflict of interest for any judge to be able to own stock within their own community/jurisdition? Perhaps this would reduce the numbers being incarcerated.

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