Expansion moving forward at county's jail annex

EL PASO - Construction equipment continues to move dirt for an expansion of El Paso County's Jail Annex in East El Paso, part of a project approved by a previous El Paso County Commissioners Court.

The two-phase project -- currently in phase one -- will include an increase in the size of kitchen, laundry, and booking operations. That expansion will make way for the second part of the project: building a 432-bed unit beginning in October.

Currently, El Paso County can house 2,450 inmates at its annex. As of Monday morning, there were 2,432 inmates jailed in the annex. Some of the prisoners are federal prisoners the county is paid to imprison.

Lt. Robert Kaminiski said it costs $67.62 a day to imprison someone in the jail annex. That allows the county to make money from housing federal inmates. The El Paso County Jail in Downtown costs nearly twice that amount, which is why Sheriff Richard Wiles is trying to increase the size of the El Paso County Jail Annex.

In order to keep up with the prison population, Kaminiski said, the annex needs to continue it's growth.

"The courts and judges have gone to a program of alternative sentencing to keep people out of prisoners," hew said.

While fewer people have been in prison on a day-to-day basis, they still count against the prison population when they are in a work-release, or "weekender" program.

Kaminiski said this past week alone they saw a prison population increase of 75 people from the work-release program.

"Those people still impact the beds that we have available," Kaminiski said.

Earlier this year, the County Commissioners approved more than $40 million for phase two portion of the project. Over the next six months, a design phase for the annex will begin allowing the county to put a final price tag on that amount.

The multi-million dollar project accounts for the largest portion of the bonds worth $110 million that were passed earlier this year.

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