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Mon, Oct. 14

Consultant to Board of Supervisors: New $40 million jail needed in Prescott

The possible site of a new Yavapai County Jail Facility located on Prescott Lakes Parkway. (Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier)
Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier

The possible site of a new Yavapai County Jail Facility located on Prescott Lakes Parkway. (Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier)

Based on the age, condition and available property of the Gurley Street facility (former Prescott jail), it doesn't make sense to renovate an undersized and inadequate structure. Nor is it feasible to correct deficiencies and expand the Camp Verde jail facility.

Karen Chinn of Chinn Planning Inc. presented her final report to the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors Wednesday, March 2, with a third option: build a Prescott Criminal Justice Center on county property located on Prescott Lakes Parkway to the west of the Yavapai County Juvenile Detention Center. The cost to build Phase 1, a 144-bed jail and intake transfer facility, is $27.2 million. Add to that an attached satellite court facility with a $13.1 million price tag, and the entire project comes in at about $40 million.

Chinn's site diagram had two options, one with six single-level housing units, and the other with four housing units of which two have a second level.

"Having two-story units is less optional because of the need to move inmates by elevator," she said.

Based on current needs, Phase 1 would include one housing unit with 144 beds; a centralized booking, intake and holding component; jail lobby; visitation, program and outdoor recreation yard; administration; and support services, which includes medical, food, laundry and building support, for a total of 58,000 building gross square feet (BGSF). Full buildout would include six housing units (600 beds), and expanded food and laundry areas for a total of 197,100 BGSF.

The satellite court, at $13 million, is composed of two courtrooms for pretrial/initial appearance and Early Disposition Court usage, and adds 31,968 BGSF. Inmates would travel within a secure connection between the housing units and courtrooms.

The county would close one of the older housing units at the Camp Verde jail and transfer 15-17 staff positions (total 45 employees) to the new Prescott facility. This results in a 1:48 staff-to-inmate ratio on the first and second work shifts.

Chinn's analysis reports that 65 percent of the county's law enforcement and court activity takes place in Prescott.

On average, jail personnel transfer 30 inmates from the Camp Verde jail to Prescott three times each week. Each court appearance involves four transports: Camp Verde jail to Gurley Street building, Gurley Street to the courthouse, courthouse back to Gurley Street, and then back to the Camp Verde jail.

Based on those numbers, the annual 18,720 transports times $52 per transport generates about $973,000 in transport costs. The county would save that amount if inmates facing Early Disposition Court and initial appearance hearings were detained at a Prescott center.

Supervisor Rowle Simmons reiterated that the Gurley Street facility is not an option for renovation or expansion.

Chinn's study indicated safety and security concerns, non-compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, need for equipment replacements and upgrades, and nowhere to expand to meet current, much less future, needs.

"We can put more employees in the old facility with a chance of getting injured, or we could put less employees into a newer facility and have less people getting hurt," Board Chair Jack Smith said.

Chinn strongly recommends putting into place alternatives to incarceration, which would reduce the jail population and associated costs, such as more pretrial diversion programs, treatment alternatives and services. A high percentage of the jail population is incarcerated on low-level charges with many inmates unable to post bail and spending long lengths of time in jail.

Chief Deputy County Attorney Dennis McGrane said the Yavapai County Attorney's Office is "ready and able to participate in programs. We are willing to look at anything that doesn't sacrifice safety for a few dollars."

Chinn said looking at underlying factors that lead to criminal behavior and utilizing diversion programs will take coordination and collaboration between law enforcement, the courts, county attorneys, public defenders and the jails. Superior Court Judge David Mackey said the courts are an active participant within the criminal justice community.

"The need is there (for a Prescott jail). With safety issues and transportation concerns, we're fortunate we've not had incidents," Mackey said.

Estimated annual operational costs for a Prescott center will run about $3.3 million. Chinn said that would be reduced by transferring personnel from Camp Verde Jail - saving about $900,000 - and eliminating some transportation costs for a $973,000 savings.

The Board of Supervisors on Wednesday did not discuss how it would finance the $40 million project.

However, after an increase in the jail district sales tax to pay for a new jail in Prescott failed in the 2014 General Election, board members reiterated the need for a new jail and added that it would then need to be paid for through property tax increases, cash on hand and/or cuts in county services.

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