State committee begins work to fix overcrowded, understaffed jails

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DENVER -- Jail security is not the flashiest thing in politics right now but when someone dies in a jail or escapes from a jail it becomes a major issue.

Colorado has dealt with several high profile deaths in jails in recent years. From William Anderson dying in a Denver jail last week to Stephanie Anderson dying in a Boulder jail last year. Anderson was only 29-years-old.

The apparent rise in jail deaths one of the many reasons for a new committee that met at the State Capitol Monday.

The County Courthouse and County Jail Funding and Overcrowding Solutions Interim Study Committee is charged with discussed ways for addressing one of the biggest issues for Sheriffs statewide.

"When you are in cramped situations, tempers flare. when your situation is like that desperate things can happen, a crisis can happen,  riots can happen," State Senator Rhonda Fields, a Democrat who sits on the committee said.

Sheriff Richard Valdez from Archuleta County traveled five and half hours to tell his story.

Valdez says his deputies are forced to travel 60 minutes sometimes to find inmates a jail cell, creating public dangers and raising the prospect of an escape.

"We've had to escapes, one in 2005 and one in 2010 and that was a very serious situation," Valdez said.

The committee will meet throughout the summer to identify possible solutions, those solutions will then likely be drafted into legislation to be debated by the General Assembly next year.

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