Jailhouse Rock raises $14,000 for Optimists | SummitDaily.com

Jailhouse Rock raises $14,000 for Optimists

BRECKENRIDGE – More than 200 people – accompanied by 30 or so jailbirds – rocked the house and raised more than $14,000 for the Summit Lake Dillon Optimist Club in the Summit County Justice Center’s jail Saturday night.

“I’m thrilled it went well,” said Capt. Mike Phibbs, who coordinated most of the evening’s activities. “We were really glad we decided to do something different and that it worked out so well.”

The jail’s security system was replaced with $550,000 worth of modern equipment last month, giving county officials the opportunity to open the facility to the public – most of whom had never seen the inside of any jail – and raise money for a local nonprofit organization.

“I’ve always wanted to do some kind of fundraiser,” said Sheriff Joe Morales, who is a member of the Optimist Club. “It was a philosophical and political decision to have the event in the first place. It would have to withstand public scrutiny. And it was an event that wouldn’t come along very often. It came together. It was a great success.”

Funds were raised through a silent and live auction, tickets to a catered dinner and warrants for people’s arrests. Coworkers and friends paid $200 to put about 30 people behind bars for the night. Some opted to go home, but they could only leave if someone bailed them out for $100. The combined efforts netted an estimated $14,000 windfall for the Optimists. The Focus on Education Foundation will match those funds.

The party’s entertainment was provided by the Rocket Surgeons, who played to a full house in the front lobby of the justice center. And about a dozen brave souls bared their skin to get permanent tattoos, courtesy of Independent Arts, which moved its Breckenridge office to Cell Block A, Cell 2 for the evening.

“It was fun to do something outside the box,” Morales said. “We had a good time, raised a lot of money and raised the awareness of the facility and what we do here.”

Keeping a jail in tip-top condition is among Morales’ goals, as a well-kept jail improves employee morale and the attitudes of inmates.

“I’ve seen seedy, dirty jails,” he said. “It affects staff morale, inmate attitude, turnover and liabilities. If inmates are fairly treated and kept in a decent, clean facility, they tend not to act out. We reap the rewards for that by not getting sued, not getting run through the courts. We owe it to the taxpayers to run a well-run facility.”

The old equipment, notably the control panel and cameras, has been in use 24 hours a day, seven days a week since the jail opened in mid-1986, Morales said.

“The whole system was dying on the vine,” Morales said. “We’ve been cannibalizing parts to make it work. We’re at a critical point where we needed to replace it or don’t run the jail. We took a 20-year jump in technology in the past three weeks.”

The security system installers did as much work as possible with the inmates in the jail, including replacing electrical and fire panels, the computer panel that operates almost everything in the facility, paging and intercom systems and other equipment.

But they told county and jail officials they would charge “a premium” if they had to do some of the work alongside prisoners. The charges were related to liability concerns, primarily because of the risk of tools getting into the hands of prisoners.

So, about 35 prisoners were transferred to the Park County Jail – at a daily cost of $43 per inmate. While that is expensive, Morales said, it was cheaper than paying the premium cost the contractors required.

Jail trusties, however, stayed behind, sequestered in a room of their own during the festivities. And about six more people were booked over the course of the evening, some for drinking and one for a weapons violation. They were held in holding cells at the front of the facility until sheriff’s office officials could take them to Park County. All prisoners will return Wednesday.

“Park County Jail is fine,” Morales said. “But there’s no place like home.”

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or jstebbins@summitdaily.com.

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