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Jail capacity stays legal — but barely

Sheriff forced to keep on his toes to adhere to fire marshal’s rules

Although jail rosters published weekly in this newspaper’s Docket page have listed more than 20 inmates twice in the past four weeks, Sheriff Rob Craft says the county is adhering to the jail’s maximum capacity set by the state fire marshal.

The latest ruling by the state agency does not allow more than 20 people — inmates, dispatchers, and jailers combined — in the jail area at any given time.

“This means 16 to 17 inmates,” Craft said Monday, “depending on the time of day and day of the week.”

As new prisoners are brought in, others bail out. So far, Craft has not had to house inmates elsewhere.

However, if there are a large number of inmates who will be incarcerated for 60 days or more, the situation may require the sheriff to look elsewhere for beds.

Craft has a calling list if the situation should require transporting prisoners to other jails.

“I’ll start as close as possible — McPherson County and Harvey County — and then keep working out until I find a place that can take them,” he said.

If space is needed in a neighboring jail, Craft said, the county can reserve one space for one night if necessary. However, planning is essential to assure there aren’t any wasted trips.

A new jail is in the works but won’t be completed for another 18 months.

Until then, Craft will keep an eye on the daily numbers and is poised to make the necessary decisions to secure the safety of inmates and county personnel in the jail.

Last modified June 23, 2011

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