New Grant County Jail

Welcome to the Central Services "New Jail" blog, which is intended to provide general information to the public and stay up to date on the progress of the new jail.

The creator of content for this blog is the Central Services Director, Tom Gaines. I will endeavor to keep this updated often but currently have no exact timeline for posting updates. You can subscribe to the blog here and select this blog under the "blog" category. By subscribing, you will receive notifications whenever I do provide updates.

You may contact me directly at the County Courthouse, 509-754-2011 extension 3276, with questions or concerns, and I will gladly try to answer any questions one may have. It is intended to provide public information for a project that could have a significant and positive impact on the community. Members of the public are always invited to contact the elected official for their district and voice concerns if they so desire.

Aug 12

Understanding the Number of Beds

Posted on August 12, 2021 at 10:43 AM by Tom Gaines

side by side

In an earlier post (week of June 14th), we referred to the number of beds. I thought it would be good to take a deeper diver into those numbers and try to explain them in a different or a better way that may make better sense.

We are planning to build a 512-bed jail but have a facility that holds 569 beds (projected 30 years from now)

The demographics show that over the next 20 years (we will use a range of 20-30), we will require 384 beds, which is the expected number of inmates who will physically be in the jail. That does not include the behavioral health beds. These 57 beds are what skews our numbers somewhat.

The octagons you see represent a 256-bed "pod" or jail. The jail area is built as prefabricated cells to save costs and the time to construct them. Building this way also allows us to create a building that looks more like, let's say a manufacturing building than a typical "jail" We can do this in a multi-story fashion, or we can do this side by side with the Sheriffs administration building, the Sallyport, and other support areas in between the two as depicted in the conceptual drawing at the top of this post. Building multi-story, however, presents challenges and does not afford us the same opportunity to control the "look" of the structure.

This construction style also takes advantage of the inmate to officer ratio that as we grow does not cause the Sheriff to add staff continually. 

If we had a second 256-bed "pod," we would have room for the entire 384 and up to 512 inmates. (Consider the following scenario) In 20 years, let's say we meet the demand as represented in the expected growth and have 384 inmates between the two pods. Still, unfortunately, we have more incarcerated individuals than expected, and we have it packed with 512 inmates. We can still manage the population with the same number of staff as if we only had 384.

It is cheaper to build the facility today at 512 beds than to add 50-75-or 100 beds in the future. It's never an exact science, and we can never guarantee these things, but we are trying to build a facility that does not need to have an addition made in 10, 15, or 20 years.

Now, none of this includes "Behavioral Health beds" All the numbers above regarding the graphic are inmates NOT included in behavioral health bed calculations. Regardless of "Inmate" expectations, the behavioral health expectations are different. The anticipation over the next 20-30 years is that we need 57 behavioral health beds. (Note I am lumping the number of beds between things like behavioral health, suicidal, and administrative segregation into one category for simplicity). We must have those available from the start, we may only have one individual, or we may have 30, or we may continually wobble back and forth on the numbers, but those beds need to be there.

Long story and a long explanation, but. It's cheaper today to build a 512-bed frame than to add beds in the future, even though we expect 384 inmates over the next 20-30 years.

The current work release will be enveloped by the new facility and contain the 57 Behavioral Health beds needed to meet that different expectation. The 569 number is created as the 57 beds are added to the 512-bed frame size.

Also, this is a "County" jail and not a "State Prison" (?), maybe some have an image of a state prison or jail with tall fences and concertina wire, bright lights, and tall poles in your head?  That is not our plan. This building once complete we believe will be complementary to the area.

 I hope this helps.

Aug 04

Amplifying Information on Port Property

Posted on August 4, 2021 at 12:58 PM by Tom Gaines

The Port of Ephrata held a meeting on July 28th to invite public comment on the decision to (or not to) sell land to the County for the new jail. It was relayed to the County that there may have been some confusing information at the meeting, and I'm hoping this will clear some of that up. Please see the following link for a brief overview of what the County is proposing and trying to accomplish at the current jail site known as "work release."

A brief overview of County request to Port (PowerPoint)

Aug 04

What about the existing jail?

Posted on August 4, 2021 at 12:57 PM by Tom Gaines

Law and Justice building picture

Let us start by providing some amplifying information about this project. The new jail will house the jail and the Sheriff's administration building, along with the few buildings required to support the jail, such as a maintenance shop, a vehicle processing center, and evidence storage. (this is proposed) The Sheriff would be vacating the current administration office in the Law and Justice building (LJB for short), and the jail would also be vacated. This leaves us approximately 26,000 square feet of space to reclaim, renovate, and repurpose. We will also move Sheriff personnel in off-site leased locations into the new building stopping the need to pay for "leased" office space.

Please forgive me for the long post. There is a lot of information to provide here. Get your cup of coffee or favorite beverage, and I will be as quick as I can here.

We have a shortage of space. If you have been to our elections office, you know exactly what I mean. If you are an attorney looking for private meeting space with your clients? You know exactly what I mean. If you are in the Clerks office, the Prosecutors' Office, or the Sheriff's office, you are undoubtedly aware that we are shoehorned into our current spaces and outgrew them long ago. If you are a visitor to our Courthouse, you may find it confusing to find the office you are looking for. (we have added a virtual tour of the campus so you can find the office you are looking for), check it out?

We have many space needs. There was a time when some advocated for an entirely new Law and Justice Center and thought we should scrap the downtown core altogether. This was numerous years ago, and even then, it was prohibitively expensive. By building the new jail and providing the needed space for the Sheriff and the facilities required to support the jail, we have the opportunity to renovate and repurpose the space in the LJB, providing enough space for future growth over the next 30 or more years without leaving the downtown core. 

Some of the current thoughts are to;

  • Provide more Courtrooms as the County is expected to grow substantially over the next 30 years
  • Provide needed space for the offices that need ready access to the Courtrooms like the Prosecutors, Clerks, and Support staff
  • Provide better access for jurors and the public
  • Provide needed space for the Auditors office who oversee our elections
  • possibly include a cafeteria that the public and employees could access while they are visiting the campus
  • possibly provide a single point of entry between the LJB and the Annex building to provide a safer, more secure area for the public as they visit their Courthouse campus
  • possibly provide a parking garage with better access for both the public and employees of the County.

There is a lot to digest there but remember; these are ideas, possibilities, and thoughts that depend greatly on the makeup of the new jail. I will try to articulate what is causing the delays (if they are really delays) and why some might think we don't have a plan, but we do have a plan—more on that in the next post.