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Butte-Silver Bow Detention Center overcrowded; misdemeanors may be released

By Grace Ditzler, KTVM Reporter, gditzler@ktvm.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 04:27:01 AM MST
Updated On: Sep 10 2013 08:43:20 PM MDT
BUTTE, Mont. -

Butte-Silver Bow's jail is approaching maximum capacity. The detention center has a maximum capacity of 85 inmates.

When we talked to Sheriff Ed Lester Tuesday morning, he explained they were at 83 inmates.

He told us they make 10 to 12 arrests per week, and because the jail was built just 10 years ago, there are no plans to update it.
 
Lester told NBC Montana Tuesday that crowding at the detention center is a high priority right now.

"We've had a fair amount of crime," Lester explained. "We're having some sentences that are inmates that are awaiting sentences...so they're really on their way to Montana State Prison, but they haven't been sent there yet."
   
The sheriff said he's working with his department and the judges to fix this problem and try to prevent it from happening again.

"Some of those type things, some of the more public nuisances issues," Lester said, "we can probably deal with those where we issue notices to appear and keep them out of jail."
 
It could mean people suspected of crimes like shoplifting or trespassing are released while they await a court appearance.

Lester also explained that when you have this many people in a jail, it can be tough on detention center staff and inmates.

"Anytime you're used to having a cell by yourself," he explained, "and we double up, obviously that's going to cause some issues."

But Lester did stress that no one considered dangerous would be released. "We will not allow public safety to be compromised."

We also spoke with Chief Executive Matt Vincent. "That's a pretty new facility," he said, "that was paid for by our taxpayers on a large bond issue."

He explained that the jail is just 10 years old, and he doesn't think the overcrowding is a sign the jail is too small.

"We felt that when we designed it at the time that it would meet the current and long-term needs of our community, so we need to think of other ways to deal with occupancy," Vincent said.

Ultimately, both Lester and Vincent tell us they feel the overcrowding is temporary.

We're told because overcrowding isn't something that happens very often, and they are not considering expanding the jail, they are looking at other options.

Butte-Silver Bow judges are weighing releasing specific misdemeanor cases already serving time in the jail. They would have to come back to finish their sentence when more space opens up.

We're also told some inmates could be housed in Boulder or Anaconda.