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County sheriff wants Idaho prison to take back state inmates

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BOISE, Idaho (AP) - The Ada County Sheriff's Office is asking a judge to hold the Idaho Department of Correction in contempt for failing to quickly remove state inmates from the county jail.

Sheriff Steve Bartlett said this week that county taxpayers are paying for inmates who have been sentenced to prison but continue to be held at the jail facility, which is designed to hold low-level offenders or people waiting for trial or sentencing. He wants the judge to enforce a decades-old court order that requires IDOC to remove inmates from the Ada County Jail within seven days of learning that the inmates have been sentenced to state custody.

"The Ada County Jail has 1,116 beds - and we've been right up to the edge of our capacity for several years now. Jails should be at 85% capacity or less to ensure staff can manage the population at peak efficiency and safety. So we should have 949 inmates or less to be fully safe," Bartlett said.

The Ada C! ounty Jail has a population of 1,059 inmates and about 33% of those inmates should be in state custody instead, county officials said.

The average length of stay for state inmates in Ada County Jail is 24 days, officials said.

The average cost of an inmate this year was more than $100 a day, Bartlett said.

"IDOC pays us $55 per day for each inmate for the first seven days, then $75 per day for every day in custody after that. Ada County taxpayers are subsidizing the IDOC. It's just not fair," he said.

Ada County is now asking the court to impose fines on the state department for $250 an inmate each day for every day a convicted prisoner sits in their jail after seven days without any new charges and holds, officials said.

"We realize the IDOC desperately needs more beds for their inmates, and more resources to help them manage their inmates when they are released back into our communities. We empathize with their plight. However, it is not t! he financial responsibility of Ada County's taxpayers. It is the State of Idaho's responsibility," Bartlett said.

Idaho Department of Correction spokesman Jeff Ray said the department does not comment on ongoing litigation.

The original court order was issued in 1991 in response to a lawsuit filed by a former Ada County sheriff who said the jail was overcrowded because of prison inmates.

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