Scott County Jail Project: Questions and Answers
Alternatives | Cost | Crime and the Jail | Location | Options
Physical Plant | Size and General Description | Proposed Facility Solution

Physical Plant

Question 1.

What's wrong with our current facilities? Why do we need to build?

We started looking at these issues in Phase One of our study and are expanding the analysis of these issues in Phase Two also. This is what we believe so far.

Age and Resulting Maintenance Issues:

The Main Jail was built in 1898, and expanded in 1983, bringing its capacity to 97. In 1989, the jail was renovated, adding 12 beds. The building has been used - and used hard - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week since it was constructed. As a result, it has aged more rapidly than other types of buildings which were built at the same time. The Annex was originally an industrial building which the County acquired in 1991 and adapted to minimum security correctional use.

The Main Jail - and all of its systems - are long past the end of their life cycle. Maintenance costs for this facility will continue to increase and we are vulnerable to aging materials and equipment which is no longer manufactured and can't be replaced easily. From an accounting perspective, this building has no value; it is depreciated out. It is its location that has the value.

The Annex - is also an older building although it was renovated 12 years ago. Typically building life cycles are seen in 30 year increments with a mid-point reinvestment in building systems. When the Annex was renovated, it was viewed as a "ten year solution" to the County's jail problem. As a result, it is likely to need a reinvestment to remain operational in the long-term.

Standard and Code Issues:

Both buildings have code compliance issues when viewed in light of today's standards. While the buildings were constructed to meet the applicable code at the time, today there are additional requirements which both facilities fail, in some areas, to meet. We have difficulty with specific areas of today's requirements of life-safety code, correctional standards (both state and professional), as well as accessibility requirements. It is important to understand that when the County initiates a major construction project in either of these facilities, we will need to address areas of non-compliance.

This issue applies to both the Main Jail and the Annex, but is more acute in the Main Jail.

Functionality and Operating Costs:

One of the major problems with the Main Jail is that it's physical plant doesn't provide adequate space for the kinds of functions that are required.

The physical plant was never designed for the functions that we now need to provide; health care and basic visiting services are good examples of this kind of problem.

Because we have to provide a higher level of service today than we did when the jail was constructed, we also have more staff. The facility was never designed for the number of staff we currently require.

Because the jail was never designed to hold the number of inmates we currently have, space for basic functions, such as food service, laundry and storage, are not large enough for the volume of activity.

The Main Jail experiences these problems most acutely since it was originally constructed at a time when indoor plumbing was a novelty and the basics of inmate services were far less than today's requirements.

The Annex experiences these problems to a much lesser degree. However, it is very dependent on receiving services, such as food service and health care, from and/or in the Main Jail. This does have an impact on operations.

In the Main Jail, the County has a much more serious problem. This facility is not operationally efficient because of the very design of the physical plant. Over a typical thirty year life cycle of any jail, about 10% of the money spent is for the capital construction and 90% is spent on operations. Obviously, the more operationally efficient we can be, the more we can save County taxpayers in the long term.

The basic footprint of the building is too small to provide enough square footage for an efficient staff to inmate ratio. Its overall dimensions are not appropriate for a facility that has to meet today's physical plant standards.

The layout of inmate housing is linear. Cells blocks are organized in small groups; staff see these areas by walking doing periodic rounds from either the main corridor or a catwalk. In both cases, inmates are only observed when staff pass their area. This results in a lower level of supervision than is expected today. This is an increasing problem because, as we move more inmates into alternatives to incarceration, the inmates who remain in the facility are those who present the highest levels of risk to themselves or others; they require a higher level of supervision, to which this facility does not lend itself.

Jail Crowding:

Although the County has implemented a number of successful alternatives to incarceration and although we have dramatically reduced our jail population, our jail continues to be over capacity.

Jails can't operate at 100% occupancy. By standards - and for the safety of staff and inmates alike, different classifications of inmates must be separated from each other. There must always be room for new admissions; this is especially an issue when the Jail is the central booking location for all police agencies in the County. There has to be enough room to allow for daily, weekly and seasonal variations. As a result, on an annual basis, jails need to operate at about 85% of capacity. Scott County hasn't had the number of jail beds that it needs since 1990.

Through the efforts of a variety of County agencies and CJAAC, Scott County implemented a population management strategy to managing its jail beds. This effort reduced jail population levels from a high monthly population of 247 in 1998 in our facilities to a high average monthly population of 218 in 2000. However, the Phase One Needs Assessment clearly showed that those who now remain in custody are charged with more serious offenses, have a more extensive criminal history with Scott County, and are far more difficult to divert from the system.

Even with population management efforts continuing, periodically, the County has to lodge prisoners in other facilities to remain within our cap. This does have costs attached to it - not the least of which are the costs to board and transport inmates to other facilities. In a way, when we spend money in other County's jails, we are helping to build and pay for a jail in that County. At some point, financially that will no longer make sense - particularly when there are potential risks associated with that strategy to manage population.

Although jail population growth is not the dominant reason why the County needs to address its jail issues, the numberof inmates who need to be in custody are, in fact, part of the problem.

Question 2.

Why can't we just remodel/add on to the Jail/Annex?

We can and the selected solution does just that. After extensive study and consideration, CJAAC unanimously agreed that renovation and expansion of our current facilities makes the most sense and is the most cost effective way to address our needs.

Question 3.

If we are crowded, why are we housing Federal prisoners?

The County does it because we believe it is in the best interests of the County.

Davenport is the location for the Federal District Court of the Southern District of Iowa. This is a logical place for holding inmates who have matters pending before this Court. Only very urbanized areas, like Chicago, have pretrial facilities that are operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

The US Marshal's service, which deals with these prisoners, contracts with local jurisdictions for pretrial detention of federal prisoners. They pay $75 per day to house prisoners in our facility. Even if we had to board these prisoners in Rock Island, paying $45 per day, it would be a sound financial decision. This additional revenue allows to off-set some costs in our existing facility.

In recent years, there has been a major emphasis on federal prosecution of certain offenses, particularly serious drug offenses. When we obtain federal convictions, we are able to get these offenders off Scott County streets, out of the Iowa prison system and away for a long-time. This makes good sense from both a public safety and fiscal standpoint.