Construction to begin for Yellowstone County jail expansion - KTVQ.com | Q2 | Continuous News Coverage | Billings, MT

Construction to begin for Yellowstone County jail expansion

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(MTN News file photo) (MTN News file photo)

The Yellowstone County Detention Facility has been over its capacity for years. 

As it stands now, the jail capacity is 286. This week, the population is close to 500 and it has been above 520 inmates at its worst.

“This place has been going for 30 some odd years, 24-7, and things are wearing out,” said Capt. Sam Bofto at YCDF.

Ground breaking for the new much needed unit at YCDF is now only a couple of weeks away. 

“The last major expansion at the facility was done in 1997,” said Bofto. “At the point, we added 100 more beds and built a dormitory. Since that time, our city has grown tremendously and the need for additional beds is there.”

The new 148 bed unit will eventually house the facilities female population, which is desperate need of space.

“I believe I have 14 on the floor right now living on cots on the floor rather than cells,” said Bofto. “That tells you how over populated we are.”

Since the jail only has one unit for females, the are all housed together despite their classification.  This means that people who would normally be separated based on certain factors like special needs, or an inability to get along with other inmates, are all living together.

“For the purposes of classification in our female unit, we have no way of separating them,” said Bofto. “It makes it real difficult.”

Before the women can move in, the unit will be used to house inmates from other units for a period of time so that repairs can be made to the current facility.

"We will empty out some of the current units and do the necessary maintenance that we need to do in there…plumbing, that sort of thing,” said Bofto. “One of the issues that we do have is the place never slows down or empties out enough where we can do that maintenance effectively."

The project will also include an expanded kitchen and space for the 24-7 program, which keeps some DUI offenders out of jail and accountable with twice daily breath tests.

The cost of the project is about $17 million, the plan is to pay that off in installments of about $750,000 a year.

"With what we bring in in revenues I think we'll be able to pay that off very quickly," Bofto said.

Much of the facilities revenue comes from their contracts to take state and federal inmates, numbers that will increase once more space is available.

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