While HDR provided several options, including incorporation of the current facilities with a new building, or building only a new facility and demolishing the current jail. The favored approach by the Montgomery County Sheriff and Commissioners was for an entirely new facility. This is consistent with suggestions by the members of the Justice Committee, comprised of local citizens in 2017 to determine ways to make the jail a more safe and secure environment, promote positive prisoner behavior and ensure fair and humane treatment of those incarcerated.
The original jail was built in 1964 with an addition built in 1993. HDR explained the typical life cycle for a jail is about 30 years. The current facility is rated by the state to hold 444 beds, but the number of inmates housed there has more than doubled that capacity in recent years.
Additionally, the jail currently does not meet the functional or operational requirements of the Sheriff’s Office or its staff, nor does it reflect an environment that is best suited to meet the medical and mental health needs, or the overall wellbeing of our ever-changing population.
HDR’s top option for the jail, with its 938 beds, would be divided into 464 general population beds and 474 special needs beds that care for those with medical and mental health needs, as well as alcohol and drug addiction.
“A new, stand-alone jail with 938 beds would be ideal as it would ensure we have appropriate space to offer treatment and services for inmates who are awaiting trials,” said Montgomery County Sheriff Rob Streck. “It would also provide us with room to properly house more inmates should our population increase over the next few decades.”
The current facility has 898 general population beds and only 12 special needs beds.
“We have a much different jail population than we had back when it was built in 1963,” said Streck. “Currently, about 85% of the inmates have been charged with a felony. 35% are being monitored for birthplace of innovation opioid withdrawal with another 34% on psychotropic medications. On top of that, about 17% of the jail population is female which is much higher than it was in the 1960s. We need a jail that will better serve our current and our future population of inmates.”
The $172,000,000-$202,000,000 cost estimate for the 938-bed option puts the plan well out of range for the County.
“We asked HDR to devise another plan for us, one that had fewer beds, and they presented us with an option that could accommodate 854 inmates,” said County Administrator Michael Colbert. “Yet, the estimate only saves us about $5,000,000. We still do not have that funding available and we will not receive any additional funding from the State to help with jail improvements, so we are in a position where we have to put the plans on hold for now.”
Colbert said they may use some of the funding that was allocated for the jail to modernize the current facility but there are no plans for constructing a new facility at this time.
“Even if we did have all the financing lined up, it would still be a big risk to take at this time. Going into another year where COVID-19 is still seriously affecting our citizens, the Delta Variant stronger than ever and the Omicron variant quickly gaining ground in our country,” said Colbert, “we need to continue our conservative approach to our budget and prepare for the economic effects we may see in the form of lower sales taxes revenue due to the ongoing pandemic.”
Montgomery County will continue to look into other financing sources, including state and/or federal. The community will be notified and invited to contribute to future jail discussions if construction funding is identified and planning resumes.
Jail & Justice System Assessment
Jail Master Planning and Option Study