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City blows $11 million on unused jail

A brand new $11 million addition to the city jail in Broomfield, Colo., sits empty and unused after an expected deluge of new prisoners that was predicted five years ago failed to materialize.

Meanwhile, the city is paying nearby jurisdictions to house its few female overflow inmates at a cost of an additional $200,000, according to an investigation by Denver’s 7News.

The new jail can hold as many as 218 inmates in two detention pods and an alternative sentencing unit, but it would cost the city and county $780,000 in staff and training costs for each of the first two years just to open its doors.

The station reported that utility costs alone for the empty building total about $14,000.

The unneeded jail is a result of a 2008 consultant’s report that predicted the current 80-bed jail would quickly run over capacity based on the city’s population growth projections. But the station reported that the jail hasn’t been overcrowded in four years.

The one exception is for female inmates: There are only eight beds for female prisoners and it’s far cheaper to pay other jails to incarcerate them than to open the empty jail right next door.

“It’s a lot more cost effective to have a few prisoners housed in other jails, than it is to open the expansion area of our jail,” City Manager Charles Ozaki told 7News.

A former city councilman said the boondoggle is the result of scare tactics from Ozaki and the police department, who said that overcrowding at the current jail would threaten public safety because jailers would be forced to release prisoners early.

“There was a fear factor that there would be an increase in population,” Bob Gaiser told the station. “There was a concern that some would be released. They didn’t really characterize it as violent people but other people — some of the population would be released who should have been incarcerated.”

Ozaki doesn’t see the unused and unneeded jail as a colossal waste of time and money, but good planning for the future. The population of Broomfield is still expected to grow, he said.

But meanwhile, it’s still too expensive to open, even for prisoners from other jurisdictions that are tight on space.

“We would have to hire staff, at a huge cost to city and county of Broomfield, to house other inmates from other counties,” Ozaki said.

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