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County jail needs more space
December 05, 2013 Jerry Purvis   

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Scotts Bluff County Detention Center Director Ron Johns told the county board he needs to add some space to help alleviate overcapacity in the jail.

Capacity at the jail is 156 for adults, and the center usually runs about 170 inmates. Population has gone as high as 200 at times. However, those inmates were in the jail as well as Lexington and house arrest.

Johns said the jail’s original design accommodates building bunk beds in some of the cells, which would add 16 more beds.

Johns said the U.S. Marshals Service keeps about 50 prisoners in the county detention center at any time. But those numbers can change with new political leaders and new incarceration guidelines.

“It’s hard to predict how many beds we need to set aside for federal prisoners,” Johns told the board. “But I do think that crime will stay pretty high in the future.”

Johns said 16 new beds would help alleviate overcrowding, but the county will still have to house some in the Dawson County Jail in Lexington. “It costs less for us to house some of our prisoners in Lexington than to turn away federal prisoners,” he said. “If we can keep those federal prisoners here, it would cover the cost of double bunking.”

He added another advantage is that when jail numbers go down, the extra space can be used for the necessary separation of inmates in some cases.

Johns said after commissioner approval, the next step is to meet with the Nebraska Jail Standards Board to assure all space and safety requirements are met for the project. Then it’s just a matter of installing new bunks. The estimated cost is from $20,000 to $25,000, but that could be lower if the work is done locally.

“We’d really like to add more modules to the detention center in the future,” Johns said. “The pad has already been installed and wiring, so all we need to do is plug it in and set up another pod. If things don’t change in the future, we’ll probably need it.”

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