Rental income a possibility at new Franklin County jail

By Tyler Richardson, Tri-City HeraldApril 28, 2013 

PASCO -- The expansion of Franklin County's jail will more than double the number of beds for inmates, potentially opening the door to rent out extra space to other counties.

With construction under way on the $18 million addition, jail officials are gearing up to let all agencies in need of space know about the possibility.

"This could fire up a whole new direction for us," said Capt. Rick Long, who manages the jail for the sheriff's office.

Long couldn't predict if agencies would be lining up to send prisoners his way, but he said the jail could potentially generate "significant income" by housing contract inmates.

The price that jails charge can fluctuate depending on costs, but the current price would be about $58 a day, Long said.

The idea of accepting contract inmates, though not new, is something that sheriff's officials in Franklin County couldn't even consider in recent memory because of jail overcrowding, Long said.

The jail, which has 154 beds, houses an average of 180 inmates, and has had up to 239 at one time. The renovated jail will have 334 beds.

The U.S. Marshals Office already has talked to Long several times about housing federal offenders.

He said when considering taking a contract inmate, county officials can review a person's history at their current location and can avoid offenders with medical and behavioral problems.

"We want people that will come here, do their time and go home," he said.

But Long said the county's first priority is making sure space is available for Franklin County offenders.

Sheriff Richard Lathim said the contract issue will not be decided until the new facility and the remodel of the old jail are done.

Project Manager Larry Hueter, who also was project manager for the Coyote Ridge Correctional Facility in Connell, said construction is coming along as scheduled, and crews expect the new facility to be built by next spring.

The remodel will take about another six months, Long said.

Crews now are working on the southwest section of the new facility, installing underground electrical wiring and plumbing, as well as laying the foundation.

Crews will be working on the building in three different sections and should be starting to lift wall panels in June, Hueter said.

Voters approved a public safety sales tax to pay for the project. The ballot measure called for a 30-year, 0.3 percent sales tax increase to pay for a two-story building that will house the sheriff's office, dispatch center, information services and Pasco Municipal Court.

Pasco is paying the cost of building the court space and is sharing in construction costs for shared areas.

The remodel will completely change the inside of the old jail while adding more holding cells and video visitation areas.

The new facility will house minimum- and medium-security offenders, with four inmates to each cell. The old facility will house maximum-security offenders, with one inmate per cell.

Both facilities will be on 24-hour lockdown, meaning inmates only will be allowed out of their cells one hour a day, Long said.

While the new facility will give the sheriff's office more options when it comes to housing inmates, Long said bringing in contract inmates will not be a source of revenue the county should be counting on every year.

"Can I tell you that they will come? No," he said. "Can I tell you that X amount will come in? No. I can say this will give us one of the most well-rounded facilities I have ever been in."

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