Aug 6, 2013 8:21 PM by Andy Koen
PUEBLO - The Pueblo County jail is nearly full. The inmate population is up at least 12 percent this year and there are just 10 of the jail's 720 beds available.
In fact, there are enough female inmates at the jail that guards had to pull out spare "sled" beds just to give everyone a place to sleep.
"I don't think any of us anticipated this rise in population," said Darlene Alcala, the Detention Bureau Chief for the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office. "We're trying to wrap our hands around it and study what actually happened."
She says it's hard to pinpoint where the growth is coming from. The number of female inmates is definitely higher, and a growing number of parole violators are coming back through.
"Of course, the new charges have to be settled in court prior to them going back to the department of corrections," Alacala said.
She says tougher drunk driving laws passed in 2010 have sent more repeat offenders to the jail to serve mandatory 30 day sentences. Pueblo's sluggish economy is also playing a role.
"Not that the bonds are higher but that they are not able to make bond so they're staying in custody longer," said Alcala.
At least 40 inmates from Pueblo are staying in the Park County jail in Fairplay for the next three months to allow work crews to repair broken and outdated showers.
When it takes longer than three days for a convicted inmate to be transferred to prison, the state will pay the county to house that offender. Pueblo County currently sends their D.O.C. backlog inmates to Fremont County to free up bed space. Even then, the jail is still being filled to capacity.
If the population outgrows the facility, Alcala says there are back-up plans in place.
"There are other counties that we know of that can take our population if we need to. Of course, it's a cost to the county which is why we let the sheriff and the commissioners know."