Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Kootenai County Jail Expansion

I urge every voter who intends to vote in the November 8 county election to submit a public records request to the Kootenai County Board of Commissioners for the "KMB Justice Facilities Group Jail and Sheriff's Office Expansion Study." My copy cost $2.25. (If the County Commissioners had really wanted voters to be better informed, they would have posted the Study on its website.) I note that when I picked up my copy, the "Request Granted" block had been checked, but there was a handwritten notation next to it which read, "KMB expansion study document with confidential pages removed." The County Commissioners' Deputy Clerk should read the public record laws. Removing "confidential" pages is a "partial denial", not a "request granted."

Don't we need more jail space? Yes, we definitely do. But...

The Study's Initial Project Recommendation includes:

  • Immediate expansion of the jail's capacity, with emphasis on medical beds and maximum security beds, which are necessary to promote effective jail management and maintain a secure facility.
  • Expansion of the core support operational elements which support the capacity.'
  • Measures which address the forecast increased demands on the jail's booking and intake components.
  • Consolidation of the housing unit control rooms into a single multi-station Central Control Room which can be manned on a flexible basis, reducing operational costs.
  • Site modifications to accommodate increased staff parking needs, and which allow the expansion to occur in an orderly manner that plans for future expansion needs.

The Study recommends that the additional property east of the Public Safety Building presently under management by the County Fair Board be designated for jail expansion and that it be annexed into the City of Coeur d'Alene as is the balance of the Public Safety Building.

But the KMB Study makes a definitive statement that causes me some concern about the adequacy of the present recommendations. The Study says:

"It should be clearly understood that completion of the work described in the Initial Project Recommendation, being dollar limited, will not meet all of the County's needs for jail capacity beyond the short term. While the Study provided a 15-year forecast this Initial Project Recommendation does not provide facilities that will meet those requirements, nor is it prudent to do so as unused beds are costly to finance and maintain. The forecasts for bed needs should be periodically updated, and planning for the funding and design of the next expansion should be undertaken at the appropriate time."

Does everyone read that the same way I do? The proposed jail expansion, which won't be completed for approximately 3 years, will be inadequate 12 years or fewer after completion? If that's correct, and if it takes 3 years to complete a project, then in 9 years or fewer, the County is going to be asking us to fund another jail expansion. And that doesn't address any additional funding to expand the sheriff's office facility, the work release center, and the courts holding facility. How long is the "short term" as used in the study? Clearly it's fewer than 15 years.

It seems to me the voters of Kootenai County are entitled to a better explanation of what the present expansion will and will not provide, and we are also entitled to a cost timeline that spells out when the County will be asking for other expansions and how much they are likely to cost. There may be better, more imaginative solutions available.


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