RBCSO explores jail changes

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RBC I  In an effort to trim its budget in the face of declining revenue, the Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Office is exploring the feasibility of closing operations at the detention center and contracting with Moffat County to house inmates from RBC. The 2021 budget for the detention center was $1,054,108.

“As revenues continue to decline, how do you justify $1 million in expenses?” Mazzola said by phone Tuesday. 

Last year’s attempt by the Rio Blanco County Commissioners to outsource local dispatch services to the Colorado State Patrol dispatch center in Craig was met with strident opposition. 

“The public wants local dispatch,” Mazzola said. “They’ve made that clear.” 

Contracting jail services through an intergovernmental agreement would be a “fiscally conservative” option for cutting costs while keeping dispatch services local. Mazzola estimates a possible first year savings of about $200,000 and between $400–500K in subsequent years.

The detention center is equipped for 34 inmates, but the daily population is averaging five inmates. When the new justice center was built, the county was averaging 12-13 inmates — too many to safely maintain in the previous jail. The number of inmates has been on the decline for quite awhile, Mazzola said. The department has been supplementing revenue by housing inmates from the U.S. Marshal’s office while they await trial, but the number of those inmates has dropped significantly under the Biden administration. Changes in state laws are also impacting the number of inmates, and increasing the cost of incarcerating them. 

Moffat County’s jail has room to house RBC inmates, Mazzola said, and offers a more comprehensive health program. Providing health care for inmates is required by state statute and has been problematic for RBC due to staffing and budget constraints. 

Law enforcement officers would need to transport individuals to Craig upon arrest for jailable offenses, and transport them back to Meeker for required appearances in court. “If one good thing has come out of the pandemic, it’s that most court appearances can now be done virtually,” Mazzola said. 

The discussion will be brought before the Board of County Commissioners in a future meeting. 


By NIKI TURNER – editor@ht1885.com

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