Critics of $187 million jail bond in Canyon County speak out with alternative plan

Voters will decide on the bond in May
Posted at 4:42 PM, Feb 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-08 18:42:46-05

CANYON COUNTY, Idaho — As Canyon County makes plans to approach voters with a $187 million jail bond in the May election, critics are increasing their course of action.

The concerned citizens of the Canyon County Committee, a group started following the proposal of a new jail in the county, argues they have found "alternate suggestions for an economical, low cost jail." The group proposes adding on to the current jail, or using the beds currently in the Juvenile Detention Center for adult incarceration--adding 50 new beds onto the center for juvenile use. This would also utilize the added beds in the steel frame trailers that will soon take shape on the Canyon County Detention Center parking lot.

"With the completion of the trailers, and the addition that we're proposing, on the juvenile center, they have enough beds to satisfy the need for the next 10 years," said Ronald Harriman, Director of the Concerned Citizens of Canyon County Committee, "The problem here is that if they built a new facility, they still have these serviceable units. They would then have a jail of 1600 beds, which would actually handle the entire Treasure Valley."

Harriman says the new jail may be due for remodel long before it's at capacity.

"With the ACLU and their consistent lawsuits, jails become dysfunctional within just a short period of years. What they're proposing is 20 years out there," said Harriman.

The sheriff's office sees things in a different light, however, "This building was built very inadequate; just a lot of safety issues. The type of ceilings that were put in, inmates would go right through. We had several escapes over the years," said Capt. Daren Ward with the Canyon County Sheriff Department.

Since opening, the county has spent millions of dollars to retrofit the jail, adding tent space to house inmates--nine of which have escaped since 2015.

Captain Ward argues with the current safety issues, inhabiting a juvenile facility is not a safe option, and the county doesn't want additions built onto the current jail.

"It's not cost effective to do so. With the amount of people it takes me to operate this building, anything that we add onto it is just adding the amount of manpower," said Ward.

Ward argues a properly designed facility would save on that manpower, and a new jail also facilitates space for those on pre-trial release due to lack of beds, when they should be incarcerated.

"The current facility that we're in a now, a portion of that will be used as a day holding area, so we know that everyone that's going to court, we bring them over here, they essentially spend the day here," said Ward.