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Report confirms problems with Page County Jail
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Report confirms problems with Page County Jail

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HJ - Standard Page County Jail

Sid Samuels of the Samuels Group met with the Page County Board of Supervisors Nov. 16 to review the results of Page County Jail Study completed by the company last month.

The Page County Jail was originally built in 1936. As questions arose in recent years about the condition of the jail and its ability to safely house prisoners, the Board of Supervisors began a process to determine the future of the existing facility.

In May, the Samuels Group was hired by the board to conduct a detailed study to determine the future jail needs of Page County.

“I think the study is excellent. I think in our heart of hearts we all knew what this study was going to tell us. It’s pretty clear the study is telling us we need to take some action,” Supervisor Chairperson Chuck Morris said.

Through the process of conducting the study, Samuels said the group determined Page County handles an average of 15 inmates per day. However, those inmates may need to be housed in separate parts of the jail based on state regulations relating to the types of offenses committed.

As an example, Samuels said the jail should have five cells where unruly inmates can be separated from the rest of the population. Samuels said the jail only has two such cells.

In addition, the existing jail does not have a padded cell available for unruly inmates or inmates with mental health issues. The jail also does not have a medical exam room as many other facilities do.

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Samuels said there were also concerns with the design of the current jail. Those concerns centered on the various sections of the jail inmates have to pass through when they are taken to and from their cells.

Samuels said the potential for problems at the jail would grow as long as the arrest totals in Page County continue to increase. The situation is further compounded by the fact that the number of violent crimes in the county have also risen over the last five years.

“If you look at where you’re currently at, your square foot per occupant is roughly 240 square feet. Guthrie County is at 291 square feet,” Samuels said. “Guthrie County is very similar in terms of inmate size.”

Along with the size constraints of the jail, Samuelson said the facility is also showing its age. Evidence of rust, mold and plumbing issues are creating challenges for the jail staff and the inmates.

“The jail is outdated. It has served its purpose. We’ve put band-aids on band-aids and now those are breaking,” Page County Sheriff Lyle Palmer said. “You can only paint on rust and scrape rust so much. I think we’ve done that as much as possible. Without the current staff I have, I don’t think this jail would still be functioning or able to house inmates.”

With the jail study completed, Samuels said the next step would be for the group to meet with Palmer to determine the current and future requirements the jail would have for space. From that, cost estimates could be developed so the board can evaluate the expense of building a new facility to renovating the existing jail.

“I think it’s going to be self evident in the end, but I think you still take a look at what it costs for building new versus what you could do here. I know some people may not want to hear that, but at the end of the day, I think doing your due diligence as a … supervisor as part of the study would be to evaluate both equations,” Samuels said.

Samuels said the group would hope to provide that next report to the board in 30 days.

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