While the Salt Lake County Jail bulges with more than 100 inmates over capacity, city and county officials can't agree on who can be housed in expanded jail facilities in the Metropolitan Hall of Justice.
The officials were expected to meet Tuesday to smooth over language in a lease agreement under negotiation for six months that would permit the county to lease 26,000 square feet in the building for jail purposes. The new facility would temporarily relieve pressure on the current 550-bed jail, which housed 657 inmates Tuesday, a jail official said. Some misdemeanants receive citations but are not jailed because of crowded conditions.City officials are concerned that the expanded facility, a 120-bed minimum-security dormitory, could be used to house high-risk inmates. County officials say they won't do that but want flexibility to house inmates as they see fit.
"We're not at an impasse," said City Attorney Roger Cutler. The city and county have been bargaining for half a year to agree on what to do with the co-owned Hall of Justice, mostly empty since the city police department vacated it last year.
"We want to give them maximum flexibility as long as our people are comfortable there won't be dangerous people housed there," Cutler said.
The county shares concerns over the safety of the facility, County Attorney David Yocom said, adding the county would be foolish to put "robbers, rapists and pillagers" in an unsecure facility in downtown Salt Lake City.
"We're not going to put dangerous people in a position where they can escape . . . we're just as concerned as the mayor," Yocom said.
The county needs some flexibility written into the 5-year lease, however, to assist it in building a new 350-bed minimum-security "honor farm" planned to be open in 1991 or 1992 to relieve pressure on the current jail, Yocom said.
Until the new facility is opened, only misdemeanants will be housed at an expanded Hall of Justice jail, the city and the county agree. But after that, the county must have flexibility to house others besides misdemeanants, Yocom said.
City officials said that could mean dangerous misdemeanants and felons could be housed in the expanded jail.
"Our fear is we don't want it (the Metropolitan Hall of Justice) to turn into a state prison," said Mayor Palmer DePaulis.
Yocom said the increased flexibility doesn't necessarily mean the county would house high-risk inmates; it could include housing women inmates.
Talks Tuesday were to focus on developing some standards for measuring the risk of inmates to be housed at the Hall of Justice jail, DePaulis said.