Jail improvements on tap

Casey S. Elliott
Wednesday, April 7, 2021
Updates needed

Sheriff Paul Craft, left, speaks with Kris Rausch of Vemco out of Missoula, the manufacturer’s representative for Acorn Security, during a jail tour. Acorn manufactures penal plumbing and fixtures. Casey S. Elliott photo

Beaverhead County’s jail may see some sorely-needed improvements this year in its security systems, plumbing, fixtures and a small expansion of available space.

Beaverhead County Sheriff Paul Craft said the upgrades will improve drainage, provide additional space for housing inmates and ensure safety and security for inmates and jail staff.

The jail was built in 1975, and basic upkeep and maintenance of the systems has been spotty at best, he said. Showers likely need swapping out with cleaned-out or replaced pipes and new fixtures, water flow needs updates and improvements, and existing cells currently not in use for a number of reasons can be updated to meet current code and used as cells.

“We’ve been trying to figure out what to do with the jail. I went to the commissioners two years ago saying we’ve got problems – some plumbing problems have got to get fixed,” he said.

Over the years, the city’s calcium-laden water built up deposits, and the water softener installed 10 years ago is breaking them off, causing other issues. The water flow to showers is abysmal as well, which Craft said he hopes to address.

An existing former cell, dubbed “the bull pen,” needs plumbing and other fixtures added so it can be used as a cell again.

Craft also hopes to add controls to automate parts of the jail and ways to cut off water flow to specific locations, so the entire system does not have to be shut down if a pipe breaks.

“I mean, it’s not a nice place to be anyway, but (the inmates) are still human,” he said.

The new security cameras are estimated to cost $70,000 for the jail area; they could be installed this year, and prep work done for the new security cameras to be installed around the courthouse.

Craft does not have an estimate of the entire cost for the project, as the bid process has just started. The jail will also have to be closed down for a week or two to get the work done. The hope is to get the project done this summer.