Summer arrests max out Douglas jail
September 27, 2004
MINDEN – The Minden jail hit maximum capacity several times in July and August, limiting the number of bunks available to two or three.
Inmate population increases during the summer because more people are arrested, jail division commander Lt. Paul Howell Howell said.
The jail, built in the early 1980s, has room for about 100 people. An influx of arrests and inmates given misdemeanor jail sentences sent the population to a high of 91.
Inmates were sent to the Stateline jail, which then reached its capacity.
“If it wasn’t for the Lake Tahoe jail, we would have had to release inmates here,” Howell said.
“We don’t anticipate (capacity problems) in the fall and winter,” he said. “We’ll have to see what next summer brings. It will be interesting to see if this is the norm, versus the exception.”
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In August, District Court Judge David Gamble signed a sheriff’s office request to release Douglas County jail inmates early, if necessary.
“This is the first time I recall us having to do that,” said Douglas County Sheriff Ron Pierini.
The approval allows for inmates near completion of their sentences for low-level crime sentences to be released, but none have been so far.
“It just gave us the proactive approach to be able to handle overcrowding,” Pierini said.
One cell block at the Minden jail is for women. When crowding occurs in the men’s cells, empty beds in the women’s block can’t be used.
“You lose the ability to segregate that much when you hit those kinds of (high) numbers ,” Howell said.
Five isolation booths have been revamped and moved closer to the main control room to make more beds available and increase safety. Despite the increased number of inmates at the Douglas County jail, dramatic increases of jail crimes, like assault and theft, did not occur.
“That’s why overcrowding is such an issue for a jail commander,” Howell said. “The more people living in a confined space, the higher the tension.”
Cost increases for food, bedding and supplies, and more inmates simply means more work and higher scrutiny of them by deputies.
“My staff works thier butts off, to be blunt,” Howell said. “We were fortunate we didn’t experience any problems.”
Capacity at the jail this month has dropped to a daily average just over 70 inmates.
“We’re back to normal now,” Pierini said, “but there for a while we were seeing a whole lot of people in custody.”
Howell shares monthly reports of the inmate population at Douglas County jail with county commissioners.
He said no noteworthy plans have developed.
“The overcrowding is indicative of community growth,” said Howell. “The jail is 22 years old now, and we’re starting to see where it’s getting outgrown by growth.”