Jail overcrowding may become issue | SteamboatToday.com
Alexis DeLaCruz

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Jail overcrowding may become issue

The Routt County Jail might send inmates to Moffat County in the near future.

Undersheriff Dan Taylor said the jail has been experiencing overcrowding the past three to four months, but it is too early to say whether the jail will continue housing its current number of inmates.

“Most of the time, we’re running close to capacity or a little over, but that’s very common,” he said.

The jail has 52 beds and lately has had 45 to 50 prisoners at at time. Taylor said that the jail usually has 30 to 35 inmates this time of year and that the high number of inmates only recently has become an issue.

“I hope this is just a temporary trend,” he said.

The jail is able to compensate for the high number of inmates with double-bunking and using cots and extra beds. That works when the jail gets crowded for a few days, but it is not a solution to long-term or continuous overcrowding.

Some of the issues that arise with jail crowding include meal service, medical help and transportation.

“It takes longer to cook 60 meals for 60 people than it would 30 meals for 30 people,” Taylor said.

Taylor said that the jail staff is “tired” but that they have been able to accommodate the extra inmates in various ways.

“The actual process of booking an inmate into jail takes about 30 to 40 minutes, and if you’re doing that 50 or 60 times a week, it’s a huge process,” Taylor said.

One of the main problems facing jail deputies is the issue of transporting inmates.

Ferrying inmates to and from court appearances can tie up much of a jail deputy’s time, taking from a few hours to 18 hours for inmates who must be transported to or from jails in other parts of the state.

Jail officials are evaluating the high number of inmates and possible contributing factors to the spike.

Taylor said that officials with Moffat County Jail in Craig, which has 102 beds, are willing to help house some of the inmates if Routt County Jail is over capacity. Taylor has been working with Moffat County officials to get an agreement finalized and said that Moffat County Jail officials have been great to work with.

Taylor said inmates are beginning to carpool in hopes of alleviating some of the transportation concerns. Often times, inmates are transported together from surrounding counties if they are going to the same destination.

Another factor that is helping with overcrowding issues is working more closely with the courts and better coordinating the times inmates must appear in court. Taylor also said that a video court system helps with transportation issues because it allows inmates to communicate with judges using a video camera and microphone.

Taylor said the Sheriff’s Off–ice will continue to monitor the number of inmates that come through the jail and make decisions accordingly if numbers remain as high as they have been the past few months.