Overcrowding in Mesa County jail

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) -- Mesa County jail hit a record high for jail population last week, highlighting what officials consider a large overcrowding problem.

Last week, the jail had 440 inmates at one time. The 392-bed jail can fit 400 inmates comfortable, according to jail Captain Steve Farlow. Anymore than 400 is a concern.

“You’re overcrowding the housing areas where inmates spend time and sleep so you put people in an area not designed for that many people, and you have people who don’t get along and get into fights,” Farlow said. “It puts a lot more stress on staff.”

In June 2012, the average daily jail population was 304; June 2011 was 267 inmates; June 2010 was 392 inmates. Farlow said this past weekend, inmates had to sleep on the floor in the booking area because there were so many of them.

Mesa County District Attorney Pete Hautzinger said jail population is cyclical, but cites a spike in felony charges over the last few weeks as reason for the high population. He also said judges adopted new bond guidelines that change the way they assess bonds, and more cash bonds are being set.

The budget for the jail is set on a two-year cycle and was set last year, so even though the jail is housing and feeding 100 more inmates than last year, the resources are the same.

Farlow said he will have to start thinking of other place to house inmates if the upward trend continues. The jail is already sending inmates awaiting placement in the Colorado Department of Corrections to Park County jail, since Mesa County doesn’t have room for them.

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