Although he prefers the Salt Lake County Jail be expanded at its present site, Salt Lake Police Chief Ruben Ortega pleaded Tuesday for quick construction of a new jail to prevent the release of suspects back onto the street a short time after they are booked.
"Many of the prisoners don't need to worry about posting bail because the overcrowding requires that many of them be released quickly," he told members of the board of governors of the Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce.He said a new jail should have been built six years ago to prevent the overcrowding that has resulted in a court order, which set a maximum number of prisoners that may be detained. In the past three years, the chief said, hundreds of suspects have been released to meet the court order.
Ortega said if the jail is built on the present site at 500 South and 300 East, it will take two years before it is completed. But, if it's built at other locations, such as Murray or an isolated site in Salt Lake County, that will add another year to the completion date.
Because Salt Lake City generates 40 percent of the people detained in the jail, he prefers the downtown site. Also, when the courts complex is built two blocks to the west, the downtown site will save transportation costs.