The Twin Falls County Jail is overcrowded, so when COVID-19 made its way into the facility in July, it spread quickly. Now, the county is using federal coronavirus funds to expand the jail space.
About 180 inmates and at least seven staff members tested positive for COVID-19 in the Twin Falls County Jail this summer. At the beginning of this month, the jail had no more positive cases, the Twin Falls Times-News reported.
During the outbreak, deputies weren’t able to separate those who tested positive from those who tested negative because there wasn’t enough space in the facility. About 70 to 90 inmates sleep on beds on the floor each night.
“That told us that we needed to do something more to protect not only the inmates, but also our employees," said Twin Falls County Commissioner Don Hall.
The county tried to pass a bond last year to pay for a new jail, but since that failed, it’s been trying to come up with other funding solutions to pay for an expansion or for modular cell units.
Late last month, Governor Little’s Coronavirus Financial Advisory Committee approved $2 million in federal CARES Act money for an addition to the jail. The roughly 6,000 square-foot space was pitched as a "COVID-19 Isolation Ward" for housing, quarantining and treating Covid-positive people, but it will eventually transition into programming and medical space.
“This is going to give us the ability to spread some folks out, and to isolate those that are positive away from those that are not positive," Hall said.
December 30 is the deadline to spend CARES Act funds, and construction has to be finished by then, too.
Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen
Copyright 2020 Boise State Public Radio