SIOUX CITY (KTIV) – Today the Woodbury County Jail holds nearly three times as many inmates as it was designed for when it opened more than 30-years ago.
Local law enforcement is looking to expand the jail to relieve crowded conditions.
Last month, the Law Enforcement Center Expansion Committee and Citizens Advisory Group met to discuss what an updated facility, or possibly an entirely new one, entails.
Tuesday night during the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors meeting, county leaders discussed the details of a possible expansion.
The Woodbury County Jail was built back in 1987- and was designed for 90 inmates.
Today, it holds nearly 234.
“We cut out some space to allow double-bunking, and things like that so we can up the inmate population,” said Sheriff Dave Drew, Woodbury County Sheriff’s Department. “Realistically right now we can easily fill it tomorrow with 320 people.”
But, Drew says since the jail was built in 1987, the world has advanced. And, he says the jail needs to as well.
One big concern is the over-30-year-old heating and cooling system.
“When we get these 100-degree weeks, I worry because if it goes out, I’m gonna have to move inmates,” says Drew. “Where am I gonna move inmates across Iowa? Because everybody is basically facing the same jail overcrowding. That becomes a tremendous issue, and we’re really on life support as far as that system goes.”
If the HVAC system needs to be replaced, that would cost $6 million.
That’s not including the price of moving inmates.
When the committee met in June, they discussed the costs of updating the current facility versus building a new one.
“Long story short, they were looking at about $22 million to just renovate it, but add no space,” says Drew. “And everybody said if you’re gonna spend that, you could build one for maybe $40 million, but you would add at least 150-200 more spaces.”
Drew says that could easily be filled.
But his biggest issue with the current jail conditions, he says, is the people he serves.
“We’re at the point where we meet on Fridays and it’s really, ‘who do we let out?'” adds Drew. “Who is less likely to re-offend? And that’s a guess of a crystal ball! That’s a huge public safety issue. My concern as sheriff is, I want the public to be safe. And I don’t want to be releasing people going, ‘Gee I hope they don’t re-offend.’ Because you just don’t know.”
Drew adds the department has done everything it can to reduce the inmate count.
From pushing back court dates, to releasing people right away arrested for simple drug possession.