Broomfield spending big money housing inmates at other jails while $11 million addition sits empty

BROOMFIELD, Colo. - An $11 million jail addition sits empty in Broomfield while the city has spent over $125,000 to incarcerate overflow inmates from its existing jail in outside facilities, a CALL7 Investigation found.

The new addition was completed in August 2010 and was built after an outside consultant convinced the city that the jail population would increase far beyond its 80-bed capacity. However, Broomfield Deputy Police Chief Jim Pfankuch says the old jail has not reached that capacity in more than four years.

The hiccup is that the women's area of the older facility has only eight beds, but there have been more than 14 female inmates at various times. So, while dozens of new cells, thousands of square feet of common space and recreation areas sit empty, the city is paying to incarcerate these female inmates at other jails because it can't afford to open the new addition to its own jail.

Broomfield City Manager Charles Ozaki said that to open just one pod in the new jail would cost more than $780,000 for each of the first two years. That includes funding to train additional staff needed for the facility during the first year.

"It's a lot more cost effective to have a few prisoners housed in other jails, than it is to open the expansion area of our jail," explained Ozaki.

The new addition has two pods and an alternative sentencing unit that bring the total potential jail accommodation to 218 inmates.

The CALL7 Investigators found the idle building costs the city more than $14,000 annually in utility costs.

The decision to build the jail addition was approved by the Broomfield City Council just prior to the 2008 recession and was based largely on a consultant's projection that the inmate population would grow well beyond the 80-bed capacity of the original jail within a couple of years. Bob Gaiser, a city councilman at the time, says there was a sense of urgency to get the project underway.

"There was a fear factor that there would be an increase in population," said Gaiser, "that we would have to triple bunk -- and we were doing some triple bunking -- and that would be a violation of federal standards for detention centers."

Gaiser also said the council was told by the police department and the city manager's staff that public safety was a concern.

"There was a concern that some would be released," he explained. "They didn't really characterize it as violent people but other people -- some of the population would be released who should have been incarcerated."

Ozaki disputes that recollection.

"There was never any scare tactic given," he said, "The only thing that was given to City Council and the mayor was the facts as we knew them at that time."

Still, Ozaki admits the consultant was wrong.

"The projections have not come to pass," he said.

The CALL7 Investigation found that no one considered alternatives if the consultant's predictions proved wrong.

Gaiser says there was no formal consideration given to contacting other jurisdictions to gauge whether inmates might be housed in Broomfield’s new facility. Ozaki confirms there was no mention of alternatives in the consultant's report or any study to determine if other jurisdictions were interested in contracting with Broomfield.

Currently, Pfankuch notes that soliciting inmates from other jurisdictions is not cost effective.

"There has been discussion with other counties and about housing other inmates, one of the things is that there is no long term commitment to the city and county of Broomfield," he said. "We would have to hire staff, at a huge cost to city and county of Broomfield to house other inmates from other counties."

So, the $11 million finished project sits empty with no scheduled operational date.

"It's not excess," said Ozaki, "It's available for the future and we're a growing community. Broomfield is projected to grow from around 57,000 people to slightly over 95,000 people."

Projected?

"That’s a projection, yes," he said.

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