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Project on hold

Due to the reduction of the jail population from COVID-19 prevention measures, as well as staffing and budget reductions, the Jail Expansion Project is on hold indefinitely.

Photograph of Detention Facility Sign

Project description

In May 2018, the Mesa County Sheriff's Office began exploring the possibility of expanding the current jail to meet the needs of an increasing jail population.

The process

Phase 1 - Started May 14, 2018, cost $164,680

The Mesa County Sheriff’s Office worked with architectural companies specializing in building and designing correctional facilities to determine the current and future needs of the Mesa County Detention Facility. After several months of work, a conceptual design was created to meet our community’s needs while being good stewards of taxpayer dollars. 

Phase 2 - Started January 14, 2019, Cost $1,021,998

During this phase, the architectural companies Blythe Group and DLR Group will turn concept drawings into a shovel-ready project. They will create construction blueprints and determine the exact cost of the project. This phase is expected to take eight months.

Phase 3 - The cost and length of the project are to be determined in Phase 2

After Phase 2 is complete, the construction project will go before the Mesa County Board of Commissioners to approve and allocate funding. Construction is estimated to take approximately 18 months. Funding sources for the project are still being researched.

The project goal

The goal is to expand the Mesa County Detention Facility to accommodate the increasing jail population to maintain a safe environment for inmates and staff as well as to more effectively and efficiently meet the medical and mental health care needs of the people in the facility’s care.

The design 

Conceptual drawing

The conceptual design is a multi-story building connected to the existing facility. Its proposed location is on existing space initially designated for a possible expansion when the facility was first built in 1992.

The multi-story building will provide an additional 160 beds for inmates. The first floor will be a medical/mental health observation unit providing medical and mental health services. The next several floors will contain two sections of dormitory-style housing containing 160 additional beds. Each housing unit will be two stories.

The Mesa County Sheriff’s Office believes it is critically important to address our current needs while continuing to preserve space for future expansion. A multi-story building will leave room for a future multi-story expansion adjacent to the proposed project. This will prevent or significantly delay having to build a new jail in the future if the inmate population increases beyond capacity.

Why a medical/mental health observation unit?

Currently, the Mesa County Detention Facility uses its booking area for medical/mental health observation in addition to its designed purpose as an intake to the jail. As the population increases, space for people needing closer observation and entering the facility becomes challenging.

The proposed medical/mental health observation unit will provide closer monitoring and care to more effectively and efficiently meet the detention facility's medical and mental health care needs. This unit will include padded suicide prevention cells, negative air pressure cells designed to prevent the spread of airborne illnesses, cells designed for persons with high medical needs, male and female multi-person detox cells, and transition cells designed to help integrate people recovering from a mental health episode back into general housing. Vehicles will have direct access to the medical/mental health observation unit allowing for emergency and non-emergency transport without affecting the rest of the facility.

This new unit can potentially increase the level of medical services provided in the facility, whereas currently, the person needing care would have to be transported to the hospital.

Why expand the jail?

The Mesa County Detention Facility was originally designed with the capacity to house 392 inmates. We’ve remodeled and made adjustments to accommodate our expanding jail population. While these adjustments have increased the total number of beds to 611, the facility's footprint has not changed. Simply put, more space is needed.

Over the last four years, the Mesa County Detention Facility’s population has steadily increased by an average of 13.6% yearly. To put that into perspective, the average jail population in 2014 was 331; in 2018, it was 556. On July 23, 2018, a high of 629 inmates were housed in the facility.

Our target population is less than 80% of the total number of inmates we can house. When at or under our target population, we can more effectively house the diverse classifications of inmates. When our population rises above 80% of available bed space, it is difficult to house our different inmate populations appropriately. For example, females cannot be housed together with males, and oftentimes co-defendants for a case cannot be housed together. For the safety and security of our inmates, it is our responsibility to house known violent inmates away from those who are not known to be violent.

Our current target population for the jail is 490, which we are regularly under. With the expansion, the target population will increase to approximately 618.

How much will the expansion cost?

The project's cost will depend on when construction begins (due to inflation) and is subject to fluctuations based on market conditions beyond control. If construction were to start today, the expansion is estimated to cost more than $20 million. Phase 2 includes continually updated cost estimations by a third-party cost estimator.

How will it be paid for?

The Mesa County Sheriff, Board of County Commissioners, and County Administrator are exploring and evaluating potential funding options. Some of the possible funding options require voter approval.

When will construction begin?

We have yet to set an estimated start date. Ultimately, that will be determined by how and when we have secured funding for the project. Once started, construction is estimated to take approximately 18 months.

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