Jail study firm says county out of beds

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Red Willow County is "about maxed out" on the number of jail beds available for its prisoners.

Gary Bowker of Allied Correctional Services told Red Willow County's commissioners and jail study task force members it does not appear that neighboring jails will have more bed space available for Red Willow County prisoners. "You're about maxed out on what's available for your prisoners," Bowker said.

Commissioners hired the firm owned by Bowker and Mark Martin in December to study whether or not Red Willow County should build a jail or continue to lease bed space in neighboring counties' jails.

Bowker said, during a meeting in McCook Tuesday evening, that the Frontier County jail in Curtis is contracting the maximum number of beds (7) that it can to Red Willow County. It can take no female prisoners.

Hitchcock County -Trenton jail officials have indicated to Bowker they cannot increase the number of beds (4) contracted to Red Willow, and they can accept no more females.

More beds at the Dawson County-Lexington jail are becoming difficult to secure, he said, and Phelps County-Holdrege has its bed space committed to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Lincoln County-North Platte is typically at capacity with its own prisoners, Bowker said.

Decatur County-Oberlin jail officials have said they may be able to increase by two the beds (4) they now contract to Red Willow County.

Red Willow County's jail options decrease even more drastically when beds are needed for female prisoners. Nationwide, the female jail population is increasing at a rate greater than that of males, Bowker said, most likely because of drug and methamphetamine violations.

Task force members and law enforcement officers told Bowker and Martin the things they want in Red Willow County in 10 years include: public safety, less crime and deterrents to crime, efficient use of tax money, economic development and the creation of well-paying jobs, improved cooperation among law enforcement agencies and prisoner rehabilitation opportunities including schooling.

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