For years, Park County officials have explored the feasibility of housing inmates from Carbon County, Montana, at the county jail in Cody. Now, they’re being asked to consider housing inmates …
For years, Park County officials have explored the feasibility of housing inmates from Carbon County, Montana, at the county jail in Cody. Now, they’re being asked to consider housing inmates from the City of Riverton.
With no beds available at the Fremont County jail in Lander, the City of Riverton has been looking for other places it can house municipal offenders, said Mayor Richard Gard.
Riverton has already struck up a deal with Washakie County to send inmates to the jail in Worland, Gard said in an interview earlier this month.
However, “we are still looking for others,” he said Oct. 4, “so, if they [Park County] would be so inclined, we’d love to discuss that with them.”
Gard said the primary goal is to give Riverton Municipal Court Judge Teresa McKee the ability to jail people who refuse to comply with her orders.
“We’re just trying to make it so people can’t say, ‘You can’t incarcerate me,’” Gard said.
The offenses that might land someone in jail are mostly alcohol-related, he said, with the Riverton offenders generally being low security risks.
“We’re not trying to cure alcoholism. ... If you want to drink, go right ahead, but don’t do it in our public spaces,” Gard said of the city’s approach, adding, “The people we’re talking about are good people; it’s just, you’ve got to learn to drink where it’s legal.”
The mayor said he didn’t know how many people might be transported to Park County on a regular basis.
“When we tell our prisoners that we’re going to send them to Cody, they won’t like that because they want to stay in [Fremont] County,” Gard said. “So I really couldn’t tell you how many we would be hoping to get.”
The Park County Detention Center has 106 beds and, as of Sunday night, had only 42 inmates. That available space has led Park County Sheriff Scott Steward to consider accepting other counties’ inmates over the years as a revenue generator; he has indicated that his office could take on additional inmates without taking on much additional cost.
If Riverton offenders were to start coming to Cody, “one of the things we’re definitely going to make them [Riverton officials] do is, ‘You’re going to come get them and take them home,’” Steward told county commissioners on Oct. 1. “Because we share a lot of those prisoners back and forth between here and there.”
“But it’s workable,” said Commissioner Dossie Overfield, to agreement from Steward.
As of Tuesday, Steward and Gard had yet to connect.
Earlier this month, Steward indicated it would be simpler to take inmates from Riverton than from Carbon County, Montana. With no jail in Red Lodge — and with other jails charging higher daily rates — Carbon County officials have been eyeing Park County as a possible home for its inmates for years.
However, there’s been a series of roadblocks. First, state law had to be changed to allow Park County to accept out-of-state prisoners; then Park County’s jail population spiked to an average of 72 inmates per day in 2017, prompting Steward to back off his offer of taking other inmates and instead predict that the Cody jail would need to be expanded in the relatively near future. Jail numbers have since sunk — putting the idea of accepting out-of-area inmates back on the table — but there’s been little progress in the discussions with Carbon County.
Steward said he’s left the ball in Carbon County Sheriff Josh McQuillan’s court.
The last time the two spoke, “he [McQuillan] said they were waiting on their insurance, because their insurance wouldn’t cover out-of-state prisoners,” Steward said.
He added that Carbon County officials have also had some discussions about possibly building a jail of their own in Red Lodge.