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Jefferson County jail renovation helps with overcrowding but problem persists

Jefferson County
Renovations will transform an indoor gym into a dormitory like this one.

Buildings and Grounds employees in Jefferson County are transforming the county jail's indoor gym into a dorm for inmates. The extra 36 beds help with the jail's constant overcrowding, but more beds are still needed. 

Spike Decker, head of the Jefferson County's buildings and grounds department, got a call this summer from the State Commission of Corrections. They asked if Decker could find a way to add beds and a few toilets to the jail's indoor recreation room. He got to work.

"We are really just converting an open room into a dormitory for our guests," Decker said.

Decker says his employees usually renovate office buildings, so this project is a bit different.

"This one is, you know, a detention facility," Decker explained. "It's built to keep people in, so it just takes a little longer, a little more work. "

Decker says having county employees on the job keeps costs below $100,000. Building new housing would have cost the county around $12 million.

But Undersheriff Paul Trudeau says overcrowding will still be an issue at the Jefferson County jail. He says as of today, 80 Jefferson County inmates are being placed in different jails across the state.   

"I constantly have a team of correction officers, sometimed two to three, traveling from one end of the state to another to house out inmates."

And the recent construction is forcing more to be moved until the project is completed in January. Trudeau says the renovation helps, but it doesn't solve the problem of chronic overcrowding at the jail.