Summit County jailhouse remodel to lock in additional holding space
Ryan Summerlin February 15, 2013
BRECKENRIDGE – Unlike many prisons and correctional facilities across the country, the Summit County Jail isn’t overflowing.
But it does need additional holding space.
The detention center’s two holding cells – first-choice real estate for short-term residents of the facility – are frequently full, with a stack of state statutes complicating the holding arrangements by restricting which detainees can be housed together. At times, law enforcement have been forced to use the nearby visitation room, the professional meeting room, even the restrooms as holding cells.
To resolve the problem, county officials plan to remodel the jail, converting an outdated inmate visitation room to two additional holding cells and switching to a new video visitation system.
“The facility’s weak spot is the holding cells,” Summit County Sheriff John Minor said. “If we fix this, add this last piece of technology, I think in the long run we’re going to save taxpayers a lot of money because building one of these things costs millions upon millions of dollars.”
County officials agree, gladly funding the estimated $225,000 remodel over a future addition or expansion to the facility, which could come with a much higher price tag.
“Whatever we can do within the existing walls to make it more functional is a huge cost benefit,” assistant county manager Scott Vargo said.
Authorities expect the new holding cells to reduce operating costs as well by improving day-to-day efficiencies. With state law requiring juvenile offenders be separated by sight and sound from adults, authorities are forced to house minors in another part of the building, which means assigning a guard to a different part of the building as well.
“It’s a tremendous waste of manpower,” said Captain Erik Bourgerie, commander of the detention division.
The shift to video visitations, which will be offered through a system similar to Skype, will represent a cost to the inmates – in the neighborhood of $20 for 20 minutes – but will also offer them opportunities to talk with friends and loved ones who are too far away or unable to visit in person, something authorities expect to have a positive impact on the jail population.
“I think it will increase the visitation for our inmates,” Bourgerie said. “The studies have shown that the more support an inmate has, the closer relationships they have with their family the less their chance of recidivism when they’re released.”
The jail remodel is just one of a number of upgrades and structural changes coming to the justice center campus as officials prepare to relocate both the probation office and the office of the district attorney to the building which currently houses the south branch of the Summit County Library.
The library will be moved to a renovated historic building in downtown Breckenridge in late 2014, at which time the county government will makeover its current building into office and additional storage space for prosecutors and probation officers.
The project will likely be completed in 2015 or 2016 and is expected to cost approximately $2 million total, Vargo said.
The DA’s current office on Airport Road will be sold off to help cover the cost of the renovation.
In the nearer term, officials are also planning a small facelift project for a portion of the courthouse to provide the probation office a temporary home until the new building is ready.
Probation is currently housed in the courthouse basement.
“Probation needed somewhere to live, so that was where it ended up,” Vargo said. “It’s been an ongoing challenge with them to meet their space needs.”
The temporary location, alongside the court clerks offices in the justice center, will require roughly $10,000-$15,000 to prepare for probation’s use.