Lawmakers consider relief bills for overcrowded jails

MONTROSE, Colo. (KKCO/KJCT)-- State lawmakers will debate a package of new spending bills in this legislative session, which may provide some relief to our overcrowded county jails.

The Bipartisan Committee met over the summer to draft the bills after talking with counties and jail staff.

The Montrose County Jail can house over 100 inmates but that all depends on their classifications and their current situation.

Jail administrators say most of the time they are working at or near capacity.

"When you are overcrowded of course it's dangerous for everybody in the building,” said the Montrose County Undersheriff, Adam Murdie.

A series of bills will be presented by the committee in the next few weeks.

"This is going to make it more equitable for the Montrose County residents,” said Montrose County Jail Administrator, Alan Miller.

To help deal with Colorado’s overcrowded county jails.

"Especially the rural counties in Colorado, I know it will be beneficial for us,” said Murdie.

Committee Chair, Senator Don Coram of Montrose County says enough is enough, it’s time to act.

"You get three people trying to reside in an eight by 10 area, that doesn't even leave enough room to turn around in,” said Coram.

The first bill would put $30 million into new grants and loans for renovations and costs.

"We are the last thing that you want to think about but it's a major cost to the county and it's a major liability,” said Miller.

The second bill would double the current reimbursement rate paid by the Colorado Department of Corrections for housing inmates.

"So state prisoner reimburse us on a rate just over $54 a day, our actual housing costs of course fluctuate, was $122.13 a day,” said Miller.

The third bill would increase spending for teleconference and video conference technology, to keep travel costs low.

"The time we pay the officers salary, the vehicles use and maintenance and all that, I mean I am looking at $700 to $1000 on a one-way trip,” said Miller.

The last measure would ask congress to fix the Medicaid and Medicare law which would allow pre-trial detainees to keep their healthcare.

"We pay almost $400,000 a year just for medical costs, that's not counting if somebody goes out to a hospital and we have to pay if it’s not preexisting condition for that on top of it,” said Murdie.

Senator Don Coram says the bills must be addressed before Aug. 1, with the aim to go before a committee in the next 30 to 45 days.

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