Sheriff: ‘build a new jail facility’

Consultants say Lawrence County is in need of a new jail in a different location with a capacity of around 104 to 120 beds. Pioneer photo by Jaci Conrad Pearson

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DEADWOOD — The Lawrence County’s Justice Needs Study consultants, Indiana-based Elevatus Architecture, made their case to the county commissioners Tuesday and Sheriff Brian Dean followed up the presentation by recommending that the county build a new jail facility.

Commissioners moved to accept the report, based on the following statement read by Dean.

“… we recommend that Lawrence County now initiate a process, the ultimate goal of which is to build a new jail facility,” Dean said. 

He asked that the study group be allowed to continue to meet to bring further recommendations to commissioners.

“This wasn’t a surprise, so to speak, as far as population,” said Commissioner Randall Rosenau. “We knew that we had some issues, as far as our bunking and other things go. It’s been a difficult road so far, but, we have a course, I believe and we need to continue with that plan.”

Commissioner Daryl Johnson said that every year the county commission has made an annual tour of the jail. 

“I think it’s been the consensus that we could see the handwriting on the wall that it wasn’t going to be too long that we were going to have to seriously address the issue. Over the last 12 years that I’ve been touring the jail, we were able to make small little changes to extend this decision-making time. So I think it is time that we get a little bit more serious about figuring out where we’re headed.”  

The study set out to examine current jail numbers and project trends to address future housing needs at the facility, the need for which was realized in recent years, as jail numbers wax and wane, sometimes dramatically. 

Charged with answering how much time is left to stay in the current jail, is there a need for a new jail and why, and what size, how many beds, and what about future growth of a new jail in a $10,000 Justice Needs Study commissioned in August, Dean presented the commission with the answers to the study’s findings at its Jan. 21 meeting. 

According to the study, the useful life of the current jail facility is at its end and that the cost of additions and renovations to the current facility will significantly exceed the cost of a new building.

The study further determined that it is not practical to renovate and add onto the current jail.

Based on all the data and anecdotal evidence, it is recommended that Lawrence County engage in a new jail project with a capacity of 104 to 120 beds. A work-release housing unit in conjunction with the county’s electronic monitoring system was also recommended. 

The jail was designed in April 1974 and is 46 years old.

The jail has four dayrooms with cells and two dormitory-style housing areas. The calculation of the current rated bed count is 51 beds. Using the 80% rule, useable beds is 42.

The state of South Dakota has no legislation requiring design standards or operating standards for a jail facility.

Using American Correctional Association (ACA) standards, the rated bed count would need to be reduced from 51 rated beds to 31 rated beds. Using the 80% rule, the usable bed count would then go from a 42 usable bed count to a 24 usable bed count.

“The useful life of the current jail facility is at its end,” 

said Mike Gouloff, of Elevatus Architecture. “The cost of additions and renovations to the current facility will significantly exceed the cost of a new building. That, accompanied with the location and difficulty in siting an addition, makes it impractical.”

“The design of justice facilities places the highest level of importance on safety and security,” Gouloff added. “Small cramped spaces with awkward workflows do not make for good conditions. The level of stress that a poorly designed work environment creates can have a measurable effect on employee safety, satisfaction, and turnover.”

Because of the jail’s age, the physical characteristics of the jail do not lend themselves to safety and security.

“It is impractical to renovate and add on to the current facility,” Gouloff said. “The community and its leadership support the judicial system and care for the safety of the community. The current jail does not meet any standards and is a threat to the staff and inmates.”

In regard to jail size, number of beds, and future growth, Elevatus principals looked at geography, population, area economics, special events, demographics, and historic average daily population data.

Recommendations are that it would be logical to see a jail located in the north part of the county.

The 2018 population of Lawrence County was 25,741 plus Black Hills State University and 3 million visitors drawn by local events.

“Our studies have shown that rural counties have total jail beds and a rate of approximately 0.4% of the county population,” Gouloff said.

For Lawrence County, that would be 100 beds useable, adding in event density would mean 133 useable beds, or a total of 150, with a work release area of 20 to 50. 

A look at area economics reveals a solid, steady growth. Future addition of up to 200 more needs to be in the plan.

“Utilizing the data provided by the Sheriff’s Department, one can gauge that a 130-150 bed jail would be sufficient,” Gouloff said. “This would provide a usable capacity of 104-120 beds. A work release program and unit should also be considered serving additional beds. Future expandability and planning could add a 200-bed housing pod along with future courtrooms.”

Rosenau said the work group established at the Jan. 21 meeting will continue to move forward with developing recommendations, such as how many beds and location.

“The next step is just to get this group together and decide the next steps,” Deibert said. “And then present that to this group, so we know what those steps are and then engage. I think we’re still on the outside looking in a little bit, so we’d like to have that work group with the staff, Randall, and I to continue and then come back next meeting, say, ‘Here’s what we see the next steps are. Now we have a plan of execution from that.’”

Rosenau said there are still many components that need to come together moving down the road on the project and still many decisions to be made.

Financing the proposed new jail facility will certainly part of future discussions.

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