BURLEY — The Mini-Cassia Criminal Justice Center will soon trim the number of inmate beds it rents to comply with state requirements.
The jail passed its inspection but must decrease the number of beds it rents to comply with state requirements.
George Warrell, Cassia County undersheriff and jail director, said the jail will try to keep the maximum number of rented jail beds around 40 a day and total inmates around 150.
Warrell said jail officials are still working on the numbers to figure out how to get the maximum revenue from the bed rental while still meeting state requirements.
Cindy Malm, jail inspector with the Idaho Sheriff’s Association, told Cassia County commissioners Monday that the jail has been out of compliance for months.
The capacity of the jail is 170 inmates. For months, the jail has had two to four inmates sleeping on the floor in portable plastic beds called “boats.”
“I’m not saying you have to have 150, but it has to be fewer than 170,” Malm said.
On Monday, Warrell said, the jail had 142 inmates.
“I have been a commissioner for eight years,” said Bob Kunau, Cassia County Commission chairman. “How come this is the first time this has been brought to us?”
Malm said the issue was brought to the attention of the commissioners because records show there have been people sleeping in the boats on the floor for three continuous months.
If the number of inmates is not kept under maximum capacity, it could cause a liability issue for the county if there are mass arrests in the community.
“And you can’t put anyone in the wrong classifications because if someone gets hurt, they will sue and they’ll probably win,” Malm said. If a county is sued, the court examines whether overcrowding was due to intentionally taking additional inmates or if it was due to an emergency situation.
The issue, Warrell said, is complicated because inmates must be housed according to their classifications for male-female and violent or non-violent offenders. So while one area of the jail is overcrowded, there may be empty beds in another.
But in “order for the revenue to work,” Kunau said, the counties do not want to leave 10 beds empty all the time.
Malm said if the jail continues to have inmates sleeping on the portable beds the jail could lose its certification, which would open it up to liability.
The issue could also cause Idaho County Risk Management Program (ICRIMP) to reduce insurance coverage, she said.
“If you lose your certification, ICRIMP will certainly carry through with consequences,” Malm said.
And any money made by the counties by renting the beds would not cover the county costs if there was a lawsuit, she said.
On July 1, the state will increase its reimbursement for state jail beds, but any increase in revenue the jail receives will now be offset by the reduced number of beds it can rent, Warrell said.
“It will pretty much be a wash,” Warrell said.
Warrell said they will continue to keep the number of rented bed as high as possible and still be compliant with state rules.
“We will continue to make adjustments,” he said.