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Are jail personnel at risk?

Crowding called a peril to workers — and prisoners

FARMINGTON — Overcrowding at the Davis County Jail extends beyond the issue of not having enough cells. It also raises the level of risk to jail personnel and prisoners as the prisoners are booked and processed, a jail officer said Tuesday.

The Davis County Sheriff's Office has been working with county commissioners to get information out to the public about the $24.8 million general obligation bond on November's ballot to expand the county jail.

Capt. Bob Yeaman told the commissioners Tuesday that in addition to severe overcrowding in the jail, the size and layout of the jail's intake facilities do not allow efficient processing of inmates. Law enforcement officers and jail personnel are placed at risk on a daily basis, he said.

"The jail currently uses double and sometimes triple bunking or floor mattresses to house between 490 and 551 inmates," Yeaman said.

And although the inmate population has been somewhat static since the jail reached capacity in 2000, the number of people arrested has continued to grow faster than the population growth rate, he said.

However, he said, because there is no more room in the jail, the number of people arrested and then released has grown at an even higher rate than for growth in arrests.

The areas where prisoners are taken into the jail and processed, called the intake facilities, can become crowded during heavy booking periods, Yeaman said. The intake facilities also serve as waiting areas for nonviolent arrestees awaiting formal booking, followed by either release or admittance.

"Current facilities were intended to process the arrests for a jail with a 192-inmate capacity. The jail books approximately 190 inmates per week, far more than the facility was originally intended to handle. Due to space constraints, all arrestees, from petty thieves to potentially violent felons, are held together while waiting for booking and processing to occur," Yeaman said.

As a result of the crowding, he said, all booking and processing functions place arrestees within unsafe proximity to jail clerical staff and expensive electronic equipment. The jail has two individual holding cells for violent detainees and one padded cell for suicidal arrestees.

"Additional individual holding cells are needed to provide more physical separation of detainees from jail personnel and the segregation of detainees by the seriousness of their offense," Yeaman said. "Without more intake facilities, the safely of jail and law enforcement officers is at risk."

If voters approve the bond on Nov. 2, the jail addition would add 3,000 square feet to the intake area.

The sheriff's office will hold public meetings to discuss the need for an expanded jail tonight, 6:30-9 p.m., at the Bountiful South Branch Library, and Thursday, 6-9:30 p.m., at the sheriff's office, 800 W. State., Farmington.