SPANISH FORK — Local residents had the opportunity to tour the new section of the Utah County Jail Monday during an open house held by the sheriff's office.

Contractors recently finished work on the expansion section, which cost the county about $22 million and adds 400 beds and about 80,000 square feet to the existing jail. Originally scheduled to be completed in September 2007, multiple change orders pushed the completion behind schedule.

"We were hopeful today would come; we weren't always sure it would," said Utah County Commissioner Gary Anderson.

He said the expansion was a team effort among the sheriff's office, the public works department, the commission and contractors. Anderson added the new jail was a tribute to Utah County Sheriff Jim Tracy, who worked hard to get it built.

Utah County Commissioner Larry Ellertson said he hopes the jail will last for many years through the different occupational programs the county has to reduce the risk of inmates re-offending.

"I hope we never have to do this again," he said.

Although some disagreements arose during the design phase and construction of the expansion, all the different departments were able to get together to make the expansion a success, said Don Nay, associate public works director for Utah County.

The original section of the jail, built in 1997, currently holds about 800 inmates and the county contracts out with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold illegal aliens who are in the process of deportation. Tracy said he also hopes the county won't need a new jail for many years.

The national rate of incarceration is 501 per 100,000, he said. Utah County has 800 inmates for about 500,000 people, less than one-third the national average. If the county were the average, the jail would house about 2,500 people.

"We have a good community," he said.

He said that because the county has seen explosive growth in recent years, crime rates have risen also, but far less than it could be. He also mentioned some of the jail-industry programs that help reduce recidivism, including learning an occupation that will help inmates pay off their incarceration fees, pay back victims and help them through life.

Sheriff's deputies will move inmates into the finished expansion soon so the old section can be remodeled.


E-mail: csmith@desnews.com