More than two years ago, the Tooele County Detention Center didn’t even have 100 inmates.
But on Wednesday, the jail had 227 inmates, with an additional two expected to transfer in later in the day. The inmate population includes 69 federal prisoners and 46 out of Salt Lake County, according to Tooele County Sheriff Lt. Ray Clinton.
The Tooele County Detention Center, built in 2011 for $25 million, was designed to hold 277 inmates.
If the inmate population reaches 240 inmates, it’s likely nearing capacity, however, according to Tooele County Sheriff Paul Wimmer.
Since the jail is divided into different classifications — maximum, medium or minimum security — no section should ever be completely full, Wimmer said. If an inmate gets into a fight or needs to be moved into protective custody, there needs to be openings at different security levels.
“You need to have the fluid movement through your facility so you can place inmates where it’s appropriate to place them,” Wimmer said. “You never want to be plumb full at any one section.”
The jail receives payment to house inmates from other agencies, so there is a financial benefit to housing Salt Lake County and federal inmates. Tooele County receives $52 per day for each Salt Lake County inmate and $60 for each federal inmate.
The county jail has been housing Salt Lake County inmates since June 2017 due to overcrowding. Clinton said Salt Lake County inmates can get time off their sentence in exchange for being transferred to Tooele County.
“Salt Lake County has been really good about incentivizing the inmates to be on their best behavior,” Wimmer said. “We haven’t had a lot of problems with them.”
With the Salt Lake County contract already extending beyond a year, the jail is making additional revenue above its budget projections of $1.3 million, Wimmer said. Projected revenue for the year was based on 60 federal inmates, and 30 Salt Lake inmates for only half a year.
Wimmer said he plans to request an additional corrections deputy in next year’s budget due to the higher population in the jail.
“We’ve been exceeding our projections for the last two years now,” he said.
With an additional corrections deputy, the sheriff’s office would have 26 jail deputies, three prisoner transportation deputies, eight civilian employees and three nurses on staff.
The sheriff’s office hired four civilian employees over a year ago to work in the control rooms at the detention center. The responsibilities for civilian employees include watching surveillance cameras and controlling secure doors in the facility, which frees up corrections deputies to interact with inmates.
One challenge for jail staff is handling short-term immigration detainees, as they are usually booked and then picked up by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement within 24 hours.
“Typically we’re not even holding them for 48 hours anymore,” Clinton said. “They usually get dropped the night before and get picked up the next day.”
Some of the immigration detainees are being deported, while others are referred to the U.S. Marshals Service for federal charges. Wimmer said sometimes an immigration detainee will be booked into the jail, taken to a court hearing, then returned to the jail as a federal inmate.
Clinton said the county jail is one of the few facilities that does short-term detainment and has held a steady flow of about 20 ICE detainees per month.