Pueblo jail offers public tours in effort to convince voters to fund new one

PUEBLO, Colo. - Does Pueblo needs a new jail? The Pueblo County Sheriff's Office certainly thinks so. To help convince voters of the need, the Sheriff's Office invited the public to an open house of the Pueblo County Jailhouse on Saturday.  

Pueblo County and its commissioners have been asking taxpayers for a new jail for five the past five years.

Earlier this week, Pueblo County Commissioners approved a ballot measure that would ask voters to increase the sales tax by 39 cents for every hundred dollars to help pay for a new county jail.

The Pueblo Jail was built in 1980 and its issues -- notably overcrowding and flooding -- are well documented.

The current building was designed to hold 509 inmates but has consistently housed hundreds more.

"We are the most overcrowded jail in the state by a bunch," said Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk Taylor.  "It's not even close."

Flooding is also a reoccurring issue. Last July, the basement flooded after a thunderstorm ravaged Pueblo. Inmates recall soaked cells every time it rains or snows.

"I just really want people to see the jail," said Sheriff Taylor. "I believe back in 2017 we had some open houses -- not one person came out saying we didn't need a new jail."

The 2019 public tour of the jail garnered a similar reaction.

"Something's got to be done because there is so much overcrowding," said Kenneth Wertsbaugh, a Pueblo resident who toured the entire jail. "This facility definitely needs a lot of attention."

"We definitely need another jail," said Lavonna Wertsbaugh. "So that our inmates and especially our law enforcement is safer."

Ultimately, the decision for a new jail will come down to the voters in November.

If you missed Saturday's open house there are still more opportunities to see the inside of the jail for yourself. The Sheriff's Office will open the jail to the public from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 21, and Oct. 5 as well. 

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