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LITTLETON, CO – An Arapahoe County citizen task force has agreed that securing a new county jail should be a priority for the county, along with providing expanded programming to help lower recidivism rates and offer more help for inmates who are experiencing mental and behavioral health problems.
The 25-member Long Range Planning Committee (LRPC) advisory committee made the recommendations at its meeting on Tuesday, August 6. Since being appointed in May, the LRPC has been evaluating the best ways to balance the county’s infrastructure needs alongside its fiscal projections, and the five-member Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) attended the Tuesday meeting.
The jail has long been recognized as having numerous and worsening problems, including overcrowding, that has made it more difficult to deal with the increase in inmates who have mental health and substance abuse issues. The jail was built in 1986 to house 386 inmates. Today it typically houses more than 1,100 inmates, which is accomplished primarily by triple-bunking the inmates in small cells. Support systems and services, such as the kitchen, laundry, and medical and mental health facilities, were never designed to handle that many inmates, and the overcrowding has also resulted in recurring failures in sewer, water, and electrical systems.
The jail’s booking and release center is similarly stressed. After an arrest, all police departments in the county bring their prisoners to this part of the facility, which was designed to accommodate 29 detainees but routinely holds up to 80 inmates. Taken together, these conditions have created a difficult and unsafe environment for deputies and other staff at the jail.
Constructing a new jail would cost an estimated $464 million, an expense that the current and projected county budget cannot absorb. To pay for the construction, the committee recommended that the BOCC consider a ballot measure that would require voters to approve a small increase in the county’s property tax rates.
The Board is expected to consider the recommendations of the LRPC over the course of the coming month. The commissioners will also be holding a series of town halls (listed below) around the county to gather community feedback on the LRPC’s recommendations. Questions and comments can be emailed to the commissioners at Together@Arapahoegov.com.
To view a short video showing the conditions at the jail, visit Arapahoegov.com/2029/Public-Safety-in-Arapahoe-County. The LRPC’s work will continue as it reviews other infrastructure needs in the county, including transportation and the county courthouse. The committee consists of residents, business leaders, and non-profit representatives from around the county.
August town hall meetings:
8/12 – 6:30-8:00PM – Commissioners Baker and Sharpe – Lima Plaza, Arapahoe Room
8/12 – 6:30-8:00PM – Commissioner Jackson – Ready to Work Aurora
8/12 – 6:30-8:00PM – Commissioner Conti – Administration Building, West Hearing Room
8/19 – 6:30-8:00PM – Commissioners Conti and Sharpe – South Glen Library, Room A
8/20 – 6:30-8:00PM – Commissioner Sharpe – Greenwood Village City Hall, Community Room
8/22 – 6:30-8:00PM – Commissioners Jackson and Holen – Aurora Central Library, Large Community Room
8/22 – 6:30-8:00PM – Commissioner Baker – Arapahoe County Fairgrounds, VIP Room
8/29 – 7:00-8:00PM – Telephone Town Hall