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Arapahoe County Jail, Strategic Expansion With COVID-19 Relief Funds

01 Dec 2023, Jail News, by

Arapahoe County Jail expansion is underway, using COVID-19 relief funds to enhance facilities for mental health and medical care.

Arapahoe County Jail, Strategic Expansion With COVID-19 Relief Funds - Inmate Lookup

Officials from Arapahoe County convened on Thursday to observe construction crews working in the vicinity of the Arapahoe County jail expansion foundations. The project, which receives funding from COVID-19 relief funds, aims to help prisoners who are dealing with serious medical conditions and mental health issues.

The jail’s kitchen and laundry facilities will be located in the new building, but by relocating them and enlarging the existing structure, around 38 more beds will be available in a dedicated medical unit.

Currently, the jail allocates around 20 beds for inmates facing medical problems. Jared Rowlison, the head of the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office’s Detention Services Bureau, said that because there is constant demand for beds, the county must house sick inmates in other locations, such as the booking area, where staff can keep an eye on them.

Rowlison said that keeping a 35-plus-year-old facility running poses many challenges. The medical area was full every single day, which was not ideal. The booking area is a bustling place where people come and go.

Over the years, the county has struggled with the capacity of its aging jail, originally built in 1986 to house 386 inmates, but currently, the facility at the Arapahoe County Justice Center in Centennial has enough beds for 1,500 inmates.

As of Thursday, 944 inmates were incarcerated in the facility, according to Sheriff’s Office spokesman John Bartmann.

The majority of the county voters rejected a ballot item in 2019 that would have raised property taxes to pay for replacing the jail. The county will use the $30 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to fund the construction of the new kitchen and laundry building, the old building expansion, and new corridors. The new kitchen and laundry building spans 21,000 square feet, while the old building expansion covers 3,500 square feet. Additionally, there will be 4,500 square feet of new corridors. These funds were leftover from federal COVID-19 pandemic aid awarded to the county.

The total cost of the project is expected to be approximately $46 million. Sheriff Tyler Brown stated that the jail will receive specific assistance in treating inmates who are going through drug and alcohol withdrawal. Additionally, a dedicated space will be created for participants in his office’s new peer navigator program to connect with inmates.

Brown noted a shift in the requirements of those in custody, emphasizing a move away from merely housing individuals to a more treatment-oriented approach.

Additionally, officials who addressed the audience on Thursday anticipate that the multi-phase project will take approximately two years to finish.