Ten years ago we looked to the future and knew that our jail population would likely expand as the number of people in Ada County grew — and the impact would be most significant in our higher-security jail population.
The reason why is we work to identify people who are charged with crimes but can be safely released into the community so they can work, pay rent, and take care of their families while their criminal cases go through the court system.
That leaves us with a population of higher-risk inmates at the jail, many of whom were housed in areas built in 1977 that weren’t designed for more violent inmates.
To prepare for this, the Ada County Board of Commissioners saved funds over the last decade to pay for the $5.2 million addition to the jail — the new Maximum Security Unit (MSU). The new pod can house up to 88 of the most violent and dangerous inmates or ones that need higher security, like sex offenders.
Work crews completed construction on the MSU in late 2013, and finishing touches were done earlier this year. Our first group of high-risk inmates were moved in last weekend. As of Thursday, we had 50 inmates in the new unit.
The MSU has 44 cells, and each cell can hold two inmates. The pod is specifically designed for maximum security, with a semi-circle design splitting the cells up into three sections.
It has a control room on top where jail employees can see into all three sections and monitor video feeds.
There are 15 cells for “Class One” inmates, who pose a violent security threat to our staff. There are 15 cells for “Class Two” inmates who pose a violent security threat to other inmates. The third section of 14 cells are for inmates who need higher security.
The MSU has two common areas, which have a TV and a Telmate communication kiosk for internet visits.
Class One inmates, who have the highest security concerns, are generally kept one per cell.
Each inmate gets to leave their cell for an hour a day for the common area or an outdoor recreation cell. Cellmates can go out to the common area together but that’s it — there is no other physical interaction between inmates in the MSU.
Meals are served through slots. If any inmates need to be moved in or out of the unit, they are in hand and leg restraints.
The security features in MSU allows for the movement of inmates between their cells and the common area without having to physically interact with deputies — unless the inmates misbehave.
Deputies walk through the MSU every 30 minutes for security checks. If needed, the jail Special Response Team (think SWAT for the jail) can respond in moments.
The addition of the MSU is a much-needed security upgrade that makes our jail safer for inmates and staff. We hope to see a reduction in violent incidents between inmates and with staff in the months to come.