Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office says need for new jail is urgent, cites safety and overcrowding

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ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. -- The Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office says there's an urgent need for a new jail. The sheriff's office cites outdated facilities, inadequate space for inmates and staff safety concerns.

“We just don’t have the spaces in a facility that was built for 386 people and now houses close to 1,200 regularly," Chief Vince Line with the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office said.

The Arapahoe County Detention Center was built more than 30 years ago. Due to limited space, the staff is now forced to put three people in a cell in certain situations. A kitchen built to feed just under 400 people now feeds more than a 1,000 every day. There are also only 20 medical beds.

The chief says there are several plumbing and flood concerns as well. He also says the booking and releasing area is too small.

“It’s a lot tasks occurring in a very confined space. The space was built to house 29 inmates and it regularly houses 70 to 80 inmates," Line said.

With all that going on, Line says officer safety is at risk too. In the last three years, inmate assaults on officers have jumped 120 percent.

“You put a lot of folks into a space that wasn’t built to house that many people and tensions are up, stress is up. And quite frankly, the inmates see that those areas are stressed," Line said. "And occasionally, can take advantage of that and potentially assault staff.”

In addition, there's no extra space for inmate resources like GED programs, mental health needs and substance abuse recovery. They're so packed, Line has turned down grants because there's no space to put a classroom or resource lab.

County commissioners are aware of the situation at the jail and are working toward a solution. A group of 25 community members is now charged with advising the board on the county's greatest needs. That could be transportation, the courthouse or the jail, among other things.

“What we’re hoping to do -- to get from the long-range planning committee -- is to get their ideas and their suggestions," Chairman and Commissioner Jeff Baker said.

If improvements were to move forward at the jail, the estimated cost is around $462 million.

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