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Slammed with overcrowding, TF county jail makes do

Inmates go about their business Thursday at the county jail in Twin Falls. Overcrowding issues abound with the county spending money to transport prisoners back and forth between jails as far away as Madison County near Rexburg, Idaho for court hearings.

TWIN FALLS — Twin Falls County is seeking citizens for a committee to discuss building a new judicial complex.

County commissioners approved the formation of a citizen’s committee Tuesday morning. The application period will begin June 4 and end July 2.

Crowding in the jail and limited space in the courthouse have led county officials to consider expanding the Twin Falls judicial complex, which is downtown. Now they’re seeking the public’s input.

The county has seen a significant spike in its jail population within the past year. On Tuesday, there were 258 inmates in the 224-bed facility.

Efforts to reduce the jail population in previous years, such as the introduction of specialty courts in Twin Falls, have been effective at keeping the number of low-level offenders in the jail down, commissioners noted at the meeting Tuesday morning. But the profile of the average Twin Falls County inmate is changing.

The county has seen a sharp increase in felony case filings over the past year as well. A decade ago, roughly 70 percent of the jail population was misdemeanor offenders, Commissioner Terry Kramer pointed out. Now, he said, it’s approximately 80 percent felons.

“It’s harder to deal with specialty programs with felons,” Kramer said.

The citizen’s committee will explore the need for larger facilities, examine the potential cost and funding mechanisms, and discuss the best location for a new judicial complex.

“It’s imperative that we engage our citizenry and find out which direction they want us to take,” Commissioner Don Hall said. “No decision’s been made. We need their input.”

The committee will have nine members, ideally with three from each of the three districts in Twin Falls County. It will also have five ad hoc members, including representatives from the county’s legal team, the sheriff’s office, and the court system.

Applications will be available online and at the commissioners’ office at the County West building on Addison Avenue.

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