Canyon County has completed an array of security improvements to its embattled tent jail and is now in full compliance with the conditions of the city of Caldwell’s special use permit for the site.
Pod 5, a canvas-sided structure erected as a work-release center but later pressed into use for inmates due to overcrowding at the adjacent Canyon County jail, was never deemed sufficient for that use by the county sheriff and other officials who have tried repeatedly to get voter approval to build a new jail on county-owned land north of Caldwell.
Then, between Dec. 2015 and December 2016, eight inmates escaped from the tent jail in six incidents. All were recaptured, and the county vowed to take steps to prevent more escapes before a new, larger jail can be constructed.
The improvements made in recent months were advocated by the sheriff’s office to cut off the routes used by escapees, and were required by the city as conditions for the use permit.
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Upgrades completed to Pod 5 include the installation of an expanded metal lid over the kitchen area, a secure exterior door leading from the kitchen outdoors, a roof/lid over the recreation yard, and a 10-foot perimeter buffer fence with concertina wire that encloses most of the tent jail.
“These security measures have been needed for some time, and I appreciate the city of Caldwell giving us added flexibility to address these matters,” Sheriff Kieran Donahue said in a news release. “The need to utilize the POD 5 facility for ... housing minimum- to medium-security inmates, is just one example of the situational crisis the county finds itself in after not properly addressing our true jail needs over the last decade.”
Building and code enforcement officials from the city of Caldwell toured the pod jail Tuesday and said they would report to the City Council that the work has been completed and the county is now in full compliance with the permit.
The structure was built in 2005 for work-release inmates but converted to a minimum-security jail five years later because of chronic jail crowding and lawsuits over jail conditions.
Kristin Rodine: 208-377-6447