FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS – JAIL OPERATIONS
Q. Why is the jail overcrowded?
A. In 1970, Kootenai County had 35,332 residents. In 2008, the population increased to 137,590 people. In 2020 the population is projected to be between 225,501 – 243,668 people. In addition, we are a destination area for millions of visitors, some of whom commit crimes in Kootenai County. Jail overcrowding is simply a result of facilities not keeping pace with the substantial increase in population and influx of visitors.
Q. Can’t we house inmates in tents like Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Maricopa County, Arizona, to save money?
A. The Maricopa tent housing requires additional staff for security, including pulling Deputies from the street, which is extremely expensive and reduces personnel to handle citizens’ calls for service. They have 6 jails, two of which were built after the tent city was opened. With our climate, tents would be impractical and staffing too expensive. In addition, the low risk offenders who are housed in Maricopa County’s tent city are the same type of inmates housed in our low cost, minimum security dormitory pods in the Kootenai County Jail and in the Work Release Center which is standard stick frame construction. In Kootenai County there is a shortage of housing for high risk inmates (which is unfortunately more expensive) who do not qualify for dormitory pods, nor would they qualify for a tent city. This is why there are not more “tent cities.”
Q. Won’t a bigger facility require more personnel?
A. Staffing is a function of the number of inmates. Additional personnel will be required as the number of inmates increases, regardless of whether it’s in an expanded jail or the overcrowded existing facility. Transporting inmates to other facilities due to overcrowding is manpower intensive. The expanded facilities will utilize new technology and be designed to be staff efficient.
Q. Wouldn’t more diversion programs keep people out of jail to begin with?
A. For every inmate in jail there are 22 in the following diversion programs, which are alternatives to incarceration; Unsupervised Probation, Felony Probation and Parole, Adult Misdemeanor Probation, Sheriff’s Community Labor Program, Community Court Services Program, Pre-Trial Release, and Work Release. In addition, the Jail itself has 11 inmate support programs; Chaplain Services, Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Commerce and Labor Skills Training, Drug Awareness, Celebrate Recovery, Anger Management, Purpose Driven Life, Bible Study, G.E.D., and Church Services.
Q. Aren’t most inmates in jail for comparatively minor crimes (misdemeanors; crimes punishable by a year or less in jail)?
A. No. Typically 65%-70% of all inmates have one or more felonies (crimes punishable by more than a year in prison). In addition, typically about over 35% of inmates have Violation of Parole/Probation as one of their new charges and/or have failed to appear in court on previous occasions.
Q. Why aren’t inmates required to work?
A. Kootenai County does use lower risk inmates to provide free labor food preparation, laundry service, cleaning of the facility, vehicle detailing, and snow removal at the Sheriff’s Department. In 2007, inmates provided over 63,000 hours of free labor.
Q. Why do citizens have to pay for television sets for inmates?
A. Taxpayers do NOT pay for televisions: the inmates do. In addition, television (with channels restricted to local networks) is a privilege and like any privilege can be taken away. TV is a behavior management tool used to help maintain a safe, orderly environment in the Jail.
Q. Why not build a regional facility?
A. Just as we are currently experiencing significant expenses in transporting inmates, a regional facility sounds good at first blush but is not practical due to transportation constraints of the area (distances between Sheriff’s Departments). As many of the inmates are awaiting court hearings, the continuous transportation requirements would be overwhelming. State statutes and regulations vary, creating operational issues for multi-state facility.
Q. Isn’t the Sheriff’s Department using “scare tactics” to sell the proposed jail expansion?
A. During the last jail expansion proposals there were accusations that “scare tactics” were employed; there would be tort claims and lawsuits, we would have to send inmates out of state for housing, etc. All of those projected issues have come to pass and at great expense to taxpayers.
Q. Isn’t it always less expensive to pay other jails to house inmates?
A. No. If that was the case, why would anybody build a jail? Besides paying the housing charge from the other Sheriff’s Department to house our inmates, we must transport them as far as 313 miles round trip. The vehicle, Deputy and administrative expenses to do this are prohibitive.
Q. Why do you give inmates so many rights and privileges?
A. Inmates are given only those rights required by the United States Constitution and Idaho Statutes. To do otherwise would result in expensive lawsuits and judgments against the County.