I am not interested in any controversy. I work for the county and I wanted to clarify a few points so people have factual information (if they are interested in that sort of thing).
First, any new facility would still have the Custer County 'motif'. There will be no pools, mints on the pillow. We are not interested in any luxury or day spa atmoshere. People who make these comments have never stayed here or don't know the staff well. We are about being professional but not about pampering. We want the bare minimums that allow for safety and meeting the state and federal standards. I think it is safe to say all staff are sick to death of the thought of having to ask voters for money. It's been about 40 years since we last asked and it's too soon. But we need a facility. We have needed one for a long time.The community needs a safe, professional, up to standard, facility most of all.
Second, people need to understand the difference between jail and prison. Prison is for convicted felons, where they keep you. Jail is where they hold you. Detainees are innocent until proven guilty and those who are convicted that are here are here for misdemeanor time serves, usually less than 3 days, and mostly because they can't afford the time pay schedule or the law requires a jail stay (as in the case of 1,2,3rd offense dui). These people aren't in the "they should rot" category. In all honesty staff aren't all that concerned with guilt or innoncence. Those are legal terms and it isn't our job to punish. It is all about safety and security. The main principle is you get what you give. We strive to be professional and respectful. We want to maintain custody so the public is safe and those that need to be detained are done so in a manner that reflects our community.
Third, Pine Hills is not an option. The reason we can't use one of their existing pods is because there are very strict laws about juveniles being kept out of sight and sound of adult detainees. Outdoor rec would be an issue. Also that facility is owned and operated at the expense of the state not the county. The state has no vested interest in county matters. Sundance lodge is roughly 30 years old. It would still require a significant amount of money to get up to standards. If the voters will give us a new facility let's pay a little more up front to get something completely suitable and not have to ask for more funds sooner than we have to for a building, upkeep, etc.
Fourth, The average number of inmates at our facility last year was 16 inmates. What many do not know is that the department fought hard to keep that number at only 16. It is all too often that time serves for city court and probation violations have to be turned away because we can not safely make the room. The jail population could easily have been 24 every day last year or more. There are frequent times when the jail can only accept people accused of felonies and partner family assaults because of our numbers. The County Attorney's office has been very cooperative in issuing summons instead of warrants for non-violent felonies when that is a possibility. The jail is spread out over 3 floors. The physical plant is a challenge to supervise even when there are 2 staff on let alone the times when only 1 staff is on. This doesn't account for public fingerprints, sitting with juvenile detainees while they are either picked up or transported, assisting officers with dui suspects, lawyer and public visitation, court and medical appointments, etc, etc. A single level for detention (and more staff) would help immensely. My wife grew up here and always assumed the jail just had a couple of drunks in it drying out. She was shocked at the numbers and offenses that people are held for. Most average citizens would be and I don't mind because part of my job is doing it well enough so average citizens don't have to think about that daily. We do not even have a holding cell.
Many of the ACLU's complaints were unfounded and frankly offensive. There is, however, no denying the facility is antiquated, out of compliance with state and federal standards, and in need of replacment. The sheriff has been working hard long before the aclu showed up to grab a headline, speed things along, and try to take all the credit for what was already going to happen.
No one wants a penny more than what is really and truly needed. So please get some facts before making wild accusations about swimming pools and what not. Thank you.
In anticipation of the coming weeks numbers have already been thinned out. However the public should know that the county's website, custermt.com, has an EMERGENCY SERVICES page. From there you can navigate to the Sheriff's pages. Detention lists the roster for who is jail for what. It is updated fairly regularly