Vote NO on the Canyon County Jail Bond


After three rejected bond attempts for a new jail, Canyon County Commissioners Tom Dale and Pam White are once again pursuing a fourth bond for a new jail to be located on the county-owned Notus property.

Commissioners Dale and White decided to spend $250,000 for the DLR group to develop a proposal for a new jail. The report was delivered to the Commissioners in October, 2016, recommending a new jail facility of 1,055 beds that would “serve the County’s needs for the next 30 years or more”. Commissioners Dale and White are asking citizens to pay for a jail whose beds may not be fully utilized for over 30 years.

In the proposal, 93% are individual cell beds with only 7% dormitory beds. Existing Idaho jails have an average ratio of individual cell beds at 46% with 54% dormitory beds. Individual cell beds cost at minimum 25% more per unit than dormitory beds, which contributes to the high cost of the proposal, $179,118 per cell bed. Other recently constructed dorm beds in Idaho ranged in cost from $67-84,000 with dormitory beds.

Commissioners Dale and White are pursuing a bond of $187,000,000 for a May, 2019 ballot to fund this proposed jail. The total cost of this bond to citizens is actually about $275,000,000, of which $88,195,746 would be just the interest payment, raising Canyon County taxes by 23.29% and the total Canyon County budget by 13.8%. The “median” priced home in Canyon County is $220,000. With a home owner’s deduction of $100,000, the taxable value is $120,000. A homeowner’s property tax will increase by $113.19 per year just for the cost of the jail building, not including the increased cost of the expanded operation.

A jail is considered full at 80% occupancy. For a 1,055 bed jail, the average daily occupancy would be 844. Canyon County states the daily cost of holding an inmate is $81.00-$84.00, with an average of 400 in the jail at any one time. With a 1,055 bed jail, that would be an additional 444 bed cost, increasing costs to $35,964 daily, and $13,126,860 annually. This adds $13.126,860 to the current county budget of $52,191,430, a 25% increase. When added to the cost of the building, this proposed jail would increase property taxes at the county level by 49%, and increase the median home property tax $235.00 annually.

The Concerned Citizens of Canyon County Committee reviewed the recognized need for a new or expanded County Jail, and reviewed data from the U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Corrections, Vera Organization, U.S. Census records, and Canyon County records. An inspection of the existing facilities was performed along with a survey of other county jails in Idaho. Interviews were held with the Canyon County Prosecutor, Sheriff, Clerk, Assessor, and City Police Chiefs. Communication with the local school district was also conducted regarding the old Van Buren School building availability. Following is the Committee conclusions.

The proposed DLR facility is excessive in design and larger than what is needed. The estimated cost is 55% higher than costs exhibited by completed jail projects within Idaho in the last four-year period. The remote location on the Notus Pond Road site causes excessive transportation labor for the Sheriff and all police departments within the county, and increased safety risks transporting inmates to court

Canyon County Commissioners previously chose to reject the CGL proposal that would have provided the necessary facilities when costs were much less than today. Nor did they approve jail facilities that are of a quality and design to be utilized over long periods of time. Due to its design, the existing jail would need significant structural changes for any use other than a jail.

At a cost of $12,000,000, or $98,361 per bed, the Commissioners approved a 7-year lease for the installation of 122-bed Steel Trailers on the jail campus for female inmates, bringing serviceable jail beds to 599. Previous jail inspections from 2016-2018 by the Idaho Sheriff’s Association found no problems with the physical structure or usability of the existing jail.

If the 1,055-bed jail is constructed, while continuing to utilize the current 599 beds, Canyon County would have the largest jail facility in Idaho with 1,654 beds. This number of beds would service a population of 617,164, which is nearly three times our present 216,699 population, requiring three times the manpower and triple the cost. According to the US Census in 2018, Canyon County’s population was 216,699. Using the higher Idaho ratio of 2.68 inmate beds per 1,000 of population, Canyon County today requires 579 beds. The DLR ratio for our population in 2030 would be 3.9 beds per 1000 of population. Using the US Census population growth rate of an annual 2.1% growth in Canyon County, statistically we should only need 715 beds in 2028.

The present juvenile detention center is underused with 77 cell beds and 13 dormitory beds. A 50 bed facility is needed according to historical occupancy rates. A 2014 CGL assessment suggested utilizing the 90 bed detention center for female inmates and constructing a 50 bed detention center in the south parking lot next to the current facility. Doing this would provide full utilization of existing serviceable jail beds and bring the total serviceable jail beds in Canyon County to 699 with the installation of the Steel Trailers. The Committee estimates this project could be completed for around $7,000,000, payable from county funds with no increase in property tax rates. Jail space for future populations would be fulfilled for the next 10 years, and provide time for adequate planning for any future expansion.

Because of the costs for a jail as proposed by Commissioners Dale and White, the Committee recommends the Pond Lane property is sold and that money used to purchase property adjacent to the current campus. There is space for future expansions on the current campus and Commissioners can develop a Master Plan for future needs. Currently, the U.S. Department of Justice is moving towards reduction of incarceration rates through improved treatment programs in the community. Planning for a higher incarceration rate as the Commissioners suggest, does not align with future trends, thus planning and building as the needs arise is a more reeasonable approach.

Canyon County citizens need to vote NO on the May 21st jail bond. There are more practical and safe ways in which to manage current and future inmate populations. For more detailed information please go here or email questions to ronharriman@q.com.