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Lake County Jail at Capacity, Puts 1,600 Felony Warrants on Hold

Lake County SheriffA report by the National Institute of Corrections indicates that Lake County, Montana needs a new jail, it’s something Sheriff Don Bell has known for a while. He says the jail has had capacity issues since the mid-90’s and that a lack of jail space means people that should be in jail, aren’t.

“I know that there’s somewhere around 800 people waiting to serve time, and I know there’s at least 1,600 felony warrants that I can’t serve… and that’s just for our county,” Bell said. “We’ve guessed anywhere from 200 probably, to 240 beds would serve the county for a long time and we wouldn’t be at full capacity for a while.”

The problem is the price tag. Bell had the firm that built the jail in Missoula make a proposal, but they wanted 40 million dollars to build a jail in Lake County. Now Bell is looking for other offers.

“I did some research and found a company called South Build,” Bell said. Those folks came up and talked to us and the commissioners. They built a 307 bed facility for 16.5 million dollars and I’m thinkingg… ok, if we did something half that size, I’m hoping 10 to 12… it could be as high as 15 million dollars to build a new facility.”

Bell has been working for the past three years on a proposal to build a new jail and county voters are likely to see a request for funds sometime in the near future.

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