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County jail expansion construction finishes below budget

The+Larimer+County+Jail+expanded+its+correctional+facility+to+accommodate+mental+health+facilities+Sept.+28.+The+expansion+started+in+early+2023+and+finished+in+August.
Collegian | River Kinnaird
The Larimer County Jail expanded its correctional facility to accommodate mental health facilities Sept. 28. The expansion started in early 2023 and finished in August.

In August, the Larimer County Jail expansion’s construction was completed. This $80 million project began in July 2020 with many aspirations involved, such as new beds, a new utility plant and a new lobby.

In the past, this jail expansion project was been passed because it was proposed to be paid with taxpayer money, which many people had issues with. However, to combat these issues and ensure the inmate population’s needs are met, private investors paid for the project, and the county will be paying them back over the next 15 years.

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This expansion added roughly 150 new dorm-style beds, increasing the jail’s capacity to 805. Larimer County’s population has increased by over 60,000 since 2010. In 2017, the inmate population peaked at 623 inmates, but the average inmate population is around 500-550 inmates at a time.

“The expansion also added support and connection opportunities for staff,” Sheriff John Feyen of the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office said. “Having a workforce that feels engaged and well resourced helps us hire and retain great people who will serve our community well.”

However, the main aspect of the expansion was the increased medical care space. The new medical care space can assist inmates in mental health crises by providing padded holding cells in private sections of the booking area. To increase morale within the detention center, architects were brought in to create more natural light, installing skylights.

“We recognize that every person who enters our jail has a story that includes a history and a future,” Feyen said. “While they’re in our care, they can expect to be treated with the dignity and respect that all humans deserve. This includes access to housing with direct sunlight and communal living areas. When they leave, our hope is to connect them with resources so they can pave a different path going forward.”

This expansion was not the only jail that received an upgrade this year. In May 2023, the Larimer County Community Justice Alternatives completed an intense project at the women’s facility. The project included work release, an intensive residential treatment program and strategic individualized remediation treatment.

“We recognize that justice-involved women come into the system with different needs and experiences,” said Emily Humphrey, the director of Community Justice Alternatives. “In conjunction with (Colorado State University), (Associate Professor) Tara Opsal and … Alex Walker, we are utilizing a trauma-informed, gender-responsive approach to women under our supervision.”

Although these programs have been ongoing for numerous years, the women did not have their facilities. Incarcerated women were placed in the same building as the incarcerated men, although in different wings. The CJA believed this was unfair and that each deserved their own treatment. This new expansion allows more beds for the men within the county jail and an advantage for the women in increased attention and care from CJA.

“CJA focuses on holding those who are under our supervision accountable for their actions while creating a positive approach and path for these justice-involved women, providing them with skills and resources as they transition back into the community,” Humphrey said.

Reach Alexander Wilson at science@collegian.com or on Twitter @alexgrey0604.

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