Election Day ’22, Sheriff’s candidates in their own words: DiSalvo, Day 3

Staff report
Joe DiSalvo
Courtesy photo

With the Nov. 8 Election Day drawing closer and ballots being mailed out this week, The Aspen Times will be running a series of questions and answers from candidates seeking local office. This week, we are publishing answers from the two candidates in the race for Pitkin County sheriff — incumbent Joe DiSalvo and challenger Michael Buglione.

Today’s question: Why do you think Pitkin County does or doesn’t need a new jail facility?

First, let’s remember that the current jail opened in 1984, and it has been a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-per-week facility for 38 years. At the time it opened, it was considered to be progressive and innovative. But, times have changed, and being “progressive and innovative” back then has a different meaning now. For example, back in 1984, the community was different — it was OK for inmates to co-mingle, crime was different, mental illness was different, safety of inmates and jailers was different. Also, changing state and federal regulations have made classification and separation of inmates mandatory. These are all factors we need to keep in mind when discussing the status of the current jail.

Here are a few truths about the jail:

  • We can no longer have males and females co-mingling in the jail
  • Inmates with mental illness need to be separated from other inmates
  • Deputy safety is a priority
  • Alcohol and drug abuse are medical issues and can not be solved in a jail environment. I would like to see a therapeutic section of the jail to help these people. 
  • Community input will be a key factor on whether we build a “new” jail, refurbish the current jail or construct a relocated jail. 

At this time, I am part of a working group that consists of the county manager, county commissioners and others exploring future options. We have also enlisted the help of two consulting firms, Justice Planners and Wold Architects & Engineers, to help us determine what works and doesn’t work in our current facility. My hope is if we do the proper homework and legwork now, through the work of these consultants and community conversations, we can all work together on what the best path forward will be. And, trust me, there are many paths we need to consider. Nothing is as black and white as it is being portrayed. And, there are so many things we have to consider, like Pitkin County population increase, men vs. women population, mental-health inmates vs. criminal inmates, inmate population vs pre-trial population and work-release. From a community perspective, do you want your son/daughter in the same holding cell as someone convicted of a crime who is waiting for a bed to open up at the state prison? If remodeling the current footprint is the recommendation of the consultants, Commissioners, and community, I’m all for it. We, as a group, are not committed to relocating or razing and rebuilding the jail in the same or another location. I am committed to following the community’s needs and the recommendations of experts. 

We all must remember the majority of the inmate population are pre-trial inmates. In other words, they have not been convicted and are in jail awaiting trial. A small percentage are waiting for bed space to open up in the Colorado Department of Corrections (prison). My vision is to create a facility that best serves our community and includes space that keeps pre-trial and convicted inmates separate, a facility that offers space for those community members struggling with mental-health and addiction issues and of utmost importance one that keeps all inmates and deputies safe and secure. I am committed to continue the tradition of a progressive jail and explore new ideas that will lead to better inmate services and lower the rate of recidivism.


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