In hopes of once again fostering a “progressive jail” environment, Pitkin County will assemble a Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee to advise local officials on the long-term future of the existing, but largely empty, Pitkin County Jail.
The committee will be made up of 12 people, including law enforcement personnel, a Pitkin County Commissioner, 9th Judicial District representatives, a public defender, human services and mental health coordinators, the county manager and a citizen volunteer.
“We might want to have two citizens. One who has been incarcerated in Pitkin County Jail and is done,” said Steve Child, Pitkin County commissioner, during Tuesday’s BOCC work session. “The second citizen being someone who has not been in jail, just a good … upstanding, involved public person from our community.”
Today, the Pitkin County Jail processes and holds new arrestees, but only for up to 48 hours, pending their advisements from the court system. If an individual’s alleged offense warrants a lengthier stay, then they are transported to the Garfield County Jail in Glenwood Springs for more long-term housing as part of a memorandum of understanding between the two counties.
Like Child, Pitkin County Commissioner Greg Poschman also favored the idea of having at least one person serve on the commission who had also served time in jail themselves or were familiar with its occupants.
“If we have someone who’s tuned-in with our homeless population, which could provide a disproportionate number of inmates at the jail, they should be part of this conversation,” Poschman said. “Where might we find people who have some special insight to the people who are going to be inhabiting the jail outside of our loop.”
In July, the BOCC approved pouring $1.3 million into the existing Pitkin County Jail to furnish temporary improvements.
The county has not determined a long-term future for its current jail facility.
According to Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock, the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee will not only discuss the future of the jail but also how to make more mental health and substance abuse resources available locally.
“How do we keep people out of the jail and give them other services that have nothing to do with the jail? And then design a facility for the people who do need to really be in jail,” said Kelly McNicholas Kury, Pitkin County commissioner. “I’m hopeful that we craft other programs that give people safer and more appropriate places for them to land based on their needs.”
Located in Aspen, the Pitkin County Jail opened in 1984 and since then has experienced very little in the way of renovations. According to the county’s website, the jail facility has “windows that allow in outside light, carpeted floors to reduce the noise level, as well as cost-effective non-institutional furniture and porcelain toilet fixtures.”
The Pitkin County Jail has 65-square-foot cells and offers inmates the ability to access a dayroom or multipurpose room, according to the county’s website.
Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said he welcomed community input concerning the jail but also reminded the board of his more than 24 years of experience with the facility.
“Back then, I think, they wanted the same things we want right now. They wanted a very progressive jail,” DiSalvo said. “Keep in mind, back then, we were having 30- or 60-day stays. So, it was easy not to get somebody institutionalized. Now, we’re having 3-year stays and we’ve got people that are fully institutionalized or they came in institutionalized.”