Pitkin County inmates transferred to Garfield County as part of safety plan
Future of decades-old facility in Aspen uncertain
Sheriff’s deputies transferred 10 Pitkin County Jail inmates to their new home at the Garfield County Jail on Monday as part of a plan to upgrade safety measures at the aging facility in Aspen, Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said.
Pitkin County commissioners last week approved a contract with Garfield County to charge Pitkin County $60 a day per inmate for what will likely be a period of two to three years while plans are made to make the current jail safer or build a new one, he said.
DiSalvo has said repeatedly that Pitkin County’s current jail, located behind the courthouse, is antiquated and unsafe. Underscoring that point, an inmate with mental health issues attacked and choked a deputy last month and had to be subdued by four other deputies.
As of Monday, no inmate will be kept at the Pitkin County Jail for more than 48 hours, the sheriff said. Some of the current deputies likely will travel between Glenwood Springs and Aspen on a daily basis transporting inmates, while others will work shifts at the Garfield County Jail, he said.
A solution as to what to do about the current jail, which is more than 30 years old, has not yet been determined. DiSalvo has talked about going to voters for a public safety tax to possibly fund a new jail, which is estimated to cost $20 million. He has also floated the idea of selling the land the jail currently sits on and moving it out of town, possibly near the airport.
While it will cost about $250,000 a year for an average of 11 inmates to be housed in Garfield County, Pitkin County will save $330,000 a year in inmate costs, officials have said.
The Garfield County Jail can house up to 225 inmates, though the facility usually has an average of about 125 inmates, DiSalvo has said. Unlike Pitkin County’s facility, the jail also has separate quarters for women, minimum-, medium- and maximum-security areas and 24-hour medical care.
“(Garfield County) Sheriff (Lou) Vallario has been very generous with his time and his staff in allowing us to do this,” DiSalvo said Monday. “I feel optimistic that within the next year we will have a path forward.”
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Fifth Judicial District Attorney Heidi McCollum confirmed Monday, Oct. 18, that her office filed a single charge of felony menacing against the district’s Chief Judge Mark Thompson on Saturday, Oct. 16. Details about the incident remain scarce.