Lawsuit over Canyon Co. jail conditions dropped

Posted at 8:39 PM, May 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-16 19:24:21-04

The Canyon County jail is free from the shackles of a court ordered mandate to clean things up.

After years of work, the county has satisfied the conditions of a lawsuit by the ACLU.

"This is a long -- has been a long -- journey and we are incredible proud to reach this milestone," saud Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue.

A rigid court order set in place since 2009 has required the sheriff's office to make drastic changes to the canyon county jail.               

"The jail was in terrible condition, I think everybody up here can admit it,” said jail commander Capt. Daren Ward. “At the time that it happened something had to happen for us to change that."

Mold from poor ventilation, showers with no hot water, peeling paint – it’s just part of a myriad of issues the county had to clean up. The sheer size of the weekly report is a testament of the work done.

"This goes out every week,” said Donahue, holding up a packet of several hundred pages. “And it has gone out every week since January 2013 every single week for the last three years."

With the court order lifted, the sheriff's office will no longer have to keep meticulous records. However the jail commander isn't looking to relax.

"We don't take steps backwards because we don't want the county to end up where it was," said Ward.

The discussion now is on future feasibility. Whether or not to maintain an old building or, as Sheriff Donahue would prefer, create a new jail on land west of Caldwell that's already owned by the county. That comes with a price tag, estimated to be as much as $45 million.

"This [current jail] is a flowing artery,” said Donahue. “You can't fix it with a Band-Aid. It's not going to be sufficient."

The other option is to expand the current jail for $14 million. That fight will be in the hand of the county commissioners, the sheriff, and the public.