JEROME — It has that new jail smell.
Jerome County opened its new jail to the public for tours Friday before moving in inmates.
Voters passed an $11.2 million bond in 2013 to build the new jail after rejecting four previous proposals. The old jail, built in the 1970s, was deemed unsafe for inmates and staff alike.
“I think we’re leaving them a great legacy here and a great facility that serve us for many many years,” Sheriff Doug McFall said Friday afternoon, at a ribbon cutting for the new jail.
And when the facility on South Tiger Drive is finally torn down many decades from now, McFall said, there’s a treat for future generations hidden in one of the cornerstones — a time capsule, containing law enforcement-related memorabilia like badges and weapons, business cards and newspapers from the present day.
McFall thanked the voters of Jerome for supporting the project.
“I appreciate the support of everyone involved,” McFall said. “I appreciate the support of the citizens of Jerome County.”
McFall said the inmates will be moved to the jail over the weekend, and that the jail facility will be fully operational on Sunday. And at 8 a.m. Monday, the sheriff’s office will open to the public in its new location.
Jerome’s jail population generally fluctuates between about 40 and 80 inmates. The new jail, though, has 135 beds, with room to build four more “pods” housing 60 more inmates, Capt. George Oppedyk said as he led a tour group through the new facility.
The additional beds mean Jerome County can now either board inmates from the state or contract with other counties that need the space, bringing in some extra money to the county. This won’t be happening immediately, though — the state doesn’t need the space at the moment due to the declining inmate population, and there aren’t any contracts with any other counties in place yet.
Well over 100 people, from law enforcement and government officials to ordinary citizens, had showed up by mid-afternoon to tour the new facility. It features inmate-housing areas arranged around a central control area from which the cameras throughout the facility can be monitored. Some of them contain small dormitory-style rooms for low-risk offenders and inmates on work release, while others have cells with two or four bunks each.
Wendy Nieto, who runs the bail bond business Bail-Out by Wendy and does most of her business in Jerome County, said the new jail is going to mean more business for her. Fewer people will be released on their own recognizance because of overcrowding than are now, and inmates from other counties will likely be brought here down the road. She recently hired another bail bond agent, Amalia Gonzalez, to get ready for the increase. Gonzalez also speaks Spanish, a useful skill in an area with such a high Spanish-speaking population.
“i know how busy it’s going to be,” Nieto said.