Pueblo inmates keep close quarters

Pueblo inmates keep close quarters

PUEBLO, Colo. - The Pueblo County Jail has far exceeded its capacity. More than 600 inmates are jailed there, but the jail was designed for 509 inmates.

Darlene Alcala, bureau chief of the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office, says she began to see more inmates being booked in January. The jail is housing about 100 more inmates now than it was at this time last year.

"It was a big increase in a fast amount of time," Alcala said.

Alcala says from January to now, there's been a surge of inmates at the jail, but she doesn't know why. Alcala says these inmates are being booked for everything from robberies and drug charges to domestic violence situations and traffic sentences.

The last time the jail underwent an expansion was in 2006 to accommodate another 320 inmates. But Alcala says the answer now is not to continue expanding.

"We need to make sure we are incarcerating the most dangerous of those criminals out there," said Sal Pace, Pueblo County commissioner.

It costs $72 to house an inmate every day. Alcala says the jail houses on average 20 inmates a day for petty offenses, like not paying fines for traffic tickets.

"Perhaps using this jail for fees and fines is not the best use of this space," Pace said.

The jail is jointly used by the city and county. The city says it's working to keep some low-risk offenders from being locked up.

"We are trying our best to minimize the number of inmates that we send to the jail," said Sam Azad, Pueblo city manager.

Alcala says when the jail is overcrowded it makes for an uncomfortable situation for employees because they're outnumbered by inmates and have limited space to walk around in during their rounds.

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