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Does Palo Alto County Need a New Jail?

Current Facility Has Served Over 100 Years

April 12, 2018
by Anesa McGregor , Emmetsburg News

The question of whether Palo Alto County needs a new jail was discussed by the Palo Alto County Supervisors during their regular meeting on Tuesday, April 10.

Delbert Longley, Chief Jail Inspector with the Iowa Department of Corrections (DOC) from Des Moines was on present to give the Supervisors a rundown of the issues in the Palo Alto County Jail.

"The jail is inspected every year by the DOC," Palo Alto County Sheriff Lynn Schultes began. "Today we are discussing the condition of the jail and the physical capabilities of the jail."

He continued reading a paragraph, which has been inserted in the jail report for several years now. The paragraph says, "Palo Alto County Jail is an older facility but is outdated, does not meet the needs of the County and is a safety and security concern for the prisoners, staff and public. The design of the jail is a major liability and the County should consider their options. This issue has been discussed in past inspections and continues to be an issue"

"We have made and continue to make the changes that we can; however, if we drastically change the jail we will then be required to comply with the current regulations of the DOC" Schultes stated. "The jail is so old that it was grandfathered in to the new regulations. We average 12.5 inmates per day in Palo Alto County and the surrounding counties of Kossuth, Emmet, Clay and Pocahontas."

The majority of inmates over the quantity of eight that the jail is designed to hold are transported to these other counties. According to Schultes, there were approximately eight days in February that Kossuth, Emmet and Clay counties were all at capacity and only Pocahontas could take extra prisoners.

According to current Iowa regulations; men and women are separated, misdemeanors and felonies are separated and those convicted are to be separated from those awaiting trial. The best separation that be done in the Palo Alto County jail is the separation of men and women.

"Your jail was built in 1908 with a capacity for eight inmates," Longley stated. "This means if you have six of the eight beds full you are theoretically full. The main concerns are prisoner safety, staff safety and overall safety and at some point you will need to decide what you will do with the issues presented with your jail."

"So far for the fiscal year 2017-2018, we have spent $36,000 in overflow inmates," Schultes said. "I will have $39,000 in amendments this year just to transport and keep inmates at another county jail. So far we have transported 85 inmates to other facilities and last year we had a total of 277 inmates."

With some further discussion, Schultes was asked to come to a future meeting to examine the issue further.



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