Montgomery County suspends new jail, claims funding shortfall

County officials noted that a new prison was in line with the recommendations of the justice committee made up of local residents and formed in 2017 to make the prison a safer and more secure environment, promote positive inmate behavior and provide treatment. human rights of incarcerated people.

The prison was built in 1964 with an addition in 1993. The HDR report indicates that the typical prison life cycle is around 30 years.

The state estimates the county jail can hold 444 beds, but the number of inmates there has more than doubled that capacity in recent years, the statement said. Supporters of a new prison note that the current one meets the requirements of the staff of the sheriff’s office and is not better suited to the medical and mental health needs of inmates

HDR option 1 provided for a new prison with 938 beds, divided into 464 beds for the general population and 474 special needs beds to treat people with medical and mental health needs, as well as drug addiction and alcoholism.

“A new stand-alone prison with 938 beds would be ideal as it would ensure that we have adequate space to provide treatment and services to inmates awaiting trial,” Montgomery County Sheriff Rob Streck said in the statement. communicated. “It would also provide us with room to properly house more inmates if our population grew over the next few decades. “

The current prison has only 12 adapted beds.

“We have a very different prison population than we had when it was built in 1963,” Streck said.

The sheriff said about 85% of current inmates have been charged with felonies, nearly 35% are being watched for opioid withdrawal and 34% for psychotropic drugs. In addition, women represent 17% of the prison population, much more than in the 1960s.

County administrator Michael Colbert said authorities had asked the HDR to design a prison for around 854 inmates. This reduced the cost by about $ 5 million.

“We still don’t have that funding available, and we won’t be receiving any additional state funding to help with prison upgrades, so we’re in a position where we have to put plans on hold for now.” said Colbert.

The authorities could use part of the funds allocated to the prison to modernize the current facility, but there are no plans to build a new facility at this time.

Colbert said even if funding had been arranged, building a new prison during the COVID-19 era would be a risk.

“We need to continue our conservative approach to our budget and prepare for the economic effects that we may see in the form of lower sales tax revenues due to the ongoing pandemic,” he said.

Montgomery County will seek other sources of funding, the statement said, and the community will be invited to contribute to future discussions about the prison if construction funding is identified and planning resumes.

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