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*The Arapahoe County Detention Center is accredited by both the American Correctional Association, the oldest accreditation organization in America which was developed specifically for practitioners of the corrections/detentions profession and the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, which serves as an accreditation body for correctional health care services.
Why was the jail allowed to get in such bad condition?
The Arapahoe County Commissioners have been working on this problem for several years. While the jail has been maintained the best it could be, the cost of maintenance has been eating away at the total dollars Arapahoe County has to the invest in all its facilities. The reality is that over the last 10 years, the County has invested 20 percent of the money it has available to spend on all 29 facilities it maintains to just keep the jail going. It has now reached the point where it no longer makes sense to continue pouring money into the old structure. Also there is no way the existing jail can handle the increased demands brought on by continued growth in the County. There comes a time in the life of any facility when you have to face the fact that it no longer is big enough, sound enough or safe enough to serve its purpose.
How did the County come up with the cost estimates for a new jail?
This year (2019), the County Commissioners authorized the development of a Master Plan for the Arapahoe County Justice Center. This complex includes the jail and court house. It was prepared by the independent firm of Reilly Johnson Architecture which specializes in the planning and design of justice facilities, especially jails and courts. The Master Plan for the Arapahoe County Justice Center includes detailed design and construction requirements for the four phases of the project, along with specific cost estimates.
The jail is 30 years old. That doesn’t seem all that old compared to my house. Why does it need replacing?
First, we’re just running out of room. It was built for 386 inmates and now houses over 1,100. Unlike a house, you just can’t “pop the top” and add new cells. Second, the wear and tear on your house is nothing like the treatment a jail undergoes 24/7. And third, the infrastructure like plumbing, sewage and electrical just can’t handle the stress of so many more occupants. So, 30 years may not seem old for a house, but in “jail-years” it’s far surpassed its useful life.
Why can’t you just renovate and repair the existing facility? Wouldn’t that cost less than a new jail?
Based on earlier proposals to renovate the old jail, we estimate it will cost nearly the same as building a new facility. That’s because all of the plumbing would have to be replaced and most of the pipes are encased in concrete. All electrical would have to be replaced as well. There is also the problem of not being able to expand the current kitchen and laundry. Those facilities – designed for 360 inmates – are struggling to serve over 1,100 today and they are “landlocked” – in a center hub surrounded by the housing pods. Also, any renovation would entail frequent movement prisoners to accommodate construction and that creates safety problems. And after all that, if you don’t add new space in a new building, you still don’t have room to provide the necessary medical care, mental health and substance abuse programs for inmates.
What kind of treatment and programs does the jail provide for inmates?
Believe it or not, more than 40% of the inmates in our jail today suffer from mental illness. That is more than the number of people that the jail was originally built to hold (386)! The ACSO provides programs for mental health care, substance abuse, domestic abuse, substance abuse, earning a GED, workforce training, and a number of other behavioral and medical issues. However, we’d like to do more, and we need the space, the actual rooms, to hold more programs. Studies show offenders who receive help while in jail are much less likely to reoffend. On the flip side, if they don’t get the treatment, studies show they are more likely to get out of jail and commit new crimes. Those people will ultimately re-enter our community. If we decide their success is not worth the investment in jail, we will consign ourselves to increased crime in our neighborhoods.
Arapahoe County has a lot of needs in addition to a new jail. For example, what is going to be done about traffic and the condition of our roads?
The County Commissioners are well aware that citizens are concerned about congestion and pavement condition. As we work toward a solution for the old jail, we are simultaneously looking for ideas and solutions to deal with traffic. The County is in the process of updating its transportation plan and establishing priorities for projects. In many ways, transportation is more complicated than the jail or court house. Transportation funding comes for a number of different sources, including federal and state, and projects often involve many different jurisdictions. But we are moving ahead with transportation and expect an updated plan to be available in 2020.
What is the Long Range Planning Committee?
The LRPC is a citizen-based committee created to provide input and recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners on the County’s priorities –specifically the Judicial Complex and transportation. One of the things the Commission is hoping to receive is a recommendation on how to fund major capital projects.
Are my taxes going to go up?
Ultimately, that depends on you. The Board of County Commissioners will take into consideration any recommendations from the Long Range Planning Committee regarding funding. The Commission also will be looking for input from citizens. Comments can be sent to email@example.com. IF the Commission decides to place some sort of tax measure on the ballot, then voters of course will make the final decision.
What about school safety? Will the Sheriff’s Office and the Board of County Commissioners be addressing concerns about the safety of our students?
We live and work in Arapahoe County. Many of us have children who are attending or who have attended schools in the County. Tragedies such as the recent event in our neighboring county are heart breaking and strike close to home. The Sheriff and the Board of County Commissioners agree that school safety is a critical need and we will be working together to do all we can to keep our schools safe. These are difficult discussions and hard decisions. They require coordination between all the school districts and cities and towns within the county. Your ideas are important to us as we move forward. We welcome your thoughts. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
How much work has been done on the Judicial Center project?
No work has been done on designing any of the proposed facilities at the Judicial Center. And design and construction would not begin unless a funding plan is approved and in place. The Board of County Commissioners did request development of a Master Plan for the Judicial Center, including jail and court house. That Master Plan was completed in January, 2019. The plan provides the commissioners with a concept for how the Judicial Center campus could be structured to accommodate current needs and future growth.
Do plans exist?
No. There are no design plans for either a new jail or new court house. The Master Plan provides only concepts for the proposed facilities.
Has polling been done?
No polling has been done regarding citizen reaction to funding and building a new jail or court house. One poll was conducted in 2018 to help determine how much citizens know about their county, how they feel about the level of county services, preferred methods of communication, and how they view the quality of life in Arapahoe County overall. No question was asked about taxes.