Jail hits 1-day record
When staff at the Mesa County Jail rallied for their regular 5 a.m. briefing on June 19, they observed a notable milestone.
The facility that morning held 432 inmates, a one-day record high population in Mesa County for its modern detention facility, according to Sheriff’s Department Capt. Steve Farlow.
Designed for 392 beds when built in 1992, the jail’s swelling to more than 400 inmates started about four weeks ago and has forced Mesa County to get creative in housing some of them. Farlow said operations are affected negatively when the population exceeds 400.
“I’ve been doing this for 26 years, trying to figure out how this wave (of inmates) goes up and down,” Farlow said. “I don’t know if it’s taking longer for people to get through the system, or they’re not able to bond out.”
The jail had 419 inmates as of 5 a.m. Tuesday, he said.
Last week, some 22 Mesa County inmates awaiting a trip to the Colorado Department of Corrections were moved to the Park County Jail to alleviate pressure in Mesa County, according to Farlow.
The Department of Corrections pays Mesa County for every day the county must house an inmate awaiting space at the Denver Reception & Diagnostic Center, the first stop for anybody entering the prison system.
“Park County gets to collect that revenue instead,” Farlow said of the 22 people shipped last week to Park County.
Cells designed for one or two inmates have increasingly been double- or triple-bunked, Farlow said. At one point last Sunday morning, they had 49 inmates in the booking wing.
“We had people on mattresses up and down the hallways,” Farlow said. “It was extremely uncomfortable and unsafe for inmates and staff.”
So who’s in the jail? As of Tuesday morning, 268 of the 419 inmates were being held pretrial on felony charges, while 42 were being held pretrial on misdemeanor charges, according to Farlow. Some 22 people were waiting on bed space to become available in Mesa County Community Corrections after sentencing.
“If we continue this way and the numbers get too high, we may have to start sending (inmates waiting for space in Community Corrections) to other county jails,” Farlow said.
Since recording an average daily population of 281 in 2011 — the lowest since at least 2000 — Mesa County’s average daily jail population has trended up, according to Sheriff’s Department data. In 2012, the average daily population was 314 inmates. From January through May, it stood at 338.
The peak period of 2006 and 2007 saw Mesa County average 381 and 368 jail inmates daily.
While the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office in 2012 recorded its first year-over-year rise in felony case filings since 2005, the system saw a wave of new cases in April when a Mesa County grand jury returned indictments against 36 people as part of an alleged drug organization.