Cities urged to keep cap levels

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The municipal jail cap that restricted the number of inmates that could be sent to the Adams County jail may be lifted, but Sheriff Doug Darr said it may be at least another year before city officials can begin to send more inmates.

“We have been operating in an unreasonable environment for some time now, and we have a responsibility to fix that,” Darr said.

“I’m not trying to be difficult for anyone, but I do intend to make sure that it is a relatively safe environment for people who work and live there.”

The jail cap, which was repealed by the Adams County commissioners during their April 15 public meeting, previously stood at 30 and were divided among nine municipalities based upon population.

The inmate cap, set by Darr, was: Thornton, eight; Westminster, five; Aurora and Commerce City, four a piece; Northglenn and Brighton, three each; and one each for Federal Heights, Arvada and Bennett.

“I would say that removing the municipal cap is the fair thing to do and helps maintain the good partnership we have had with our Adams County partners,” District 3 Commissioner Erik Hansen said in a text message following the jail cap’s repeal.

Darr said the repeal, however, does not necessarily solve the past budget cuts and staffing losses due to attrition and military deployments— two key factors that, he said, ultimately led to the jail cap’s creation by the sitting Board of County Commissioners more than a year ago.

County Administrator Jim Robinson said the sheriff’s office has been authorized to hire 13 deputies to fill jail positions that are or will become vacant in the coming months by using vacancy savings that were built into this year’s budget.

Darr, however, said the initial approval for the hires came in October 2012 after his department was required to submit its budget in August 2012.

To address this issue, Darr said he submitted a $567,000 to $568,000 supplemental budget request to make the funds available for the second-half of this year, which would be used to train, outfit and compensate the hired deputies.

Those positions, he said, are only intended to ensure that the two housing units open right now operate at a safe level.

Darr said the sheriff’s office is currently in the process of selecting new deputies, who must then undergo 22 weeks of academy training and an additional 11 to 18 weeks of field and officer training based upon their progress and assignments.

In all, Darr said it will take at least another year before newly hired deputies can begin their new assignments.

“The commissioners intended to allow municipal prisoners to come into the jail, and I’m supportive of that. I don’t have a problem with that at all particularly when it comes to those more serious offenders,” Darr said.

“I didn’t cause these problems out here, I didn’t cut the budget and the staffing, I didn’t create the hiring restrictions, and I didn’t create the daily per diem fee. It was all done by somebody else but I found myself having to deal with the consequences of all of it, and the consequences are going to carry on for a while until such time that we can be better staffed.”

Darr said part of those consequences will be asking cities to continue sending inmates to the jail based upon prior capped levels until additional staffing is available.

The jail cap, he acknowledged, has caused some ire among city officials, but Darr said he cannot and will not open any more housing units in the jail until adequate staffing is available.