Weber County Sheriff asks viewers to approve jail expansion
Sep 27, 2023, 7:06 PM | Updated: 10:01 pm
OGDEN — The Weber County Sheriff is asking voters for up to $98 million in bond funds to help with growing mental health and drug addiction needs.
Deputies say right now, they’re struggling to keep up.
The medical wing is designed for six people. The request is to build a new medical wing to add capacity for 48 additional patients.
You might call it improvising, using a higher-security area for mental health inmates.
“We have a 32-man unit that should house 32 individuals. Right now, it houses between 14 and 15 individuals that are mentally ill because they can’t be housed with other people,” Chief Deputy Phillip Reese explained. “It overflows often into our booking area, which isn’t safe. It’s not how it’s designed to be.”
Often over a hundred inmates per day may have to come through this combined dental, medical, and mental health exam room.
Reese said, “It’s very crammed and it’s less than ideal.”
The area for counseling is a very narrow cubicle. It’s why Sheriff Ryan Arbon is asking voters to approve up to $98 million.
“Back then when this was designed and built, there was not an opioid crisis and there wasn’t a mental health crisis either,” The Sheriff said.
The bond proposal includes a new justice center where some 225 work-release inmates can stay and outside resources can come to help prepare inmates for re-entry into the community.
Arbon said, “Just locking somebody up does not do a whole lot of good if there’s nothing, no education or no programming or counseling with them.”
Arbon said he’d like the room to start preparing inmates on day one to contribute to society and not go back to crime, connecting them with resources to find housing, jobs, and education.
Meantime, deputies continue to make do, but it’s tough.
Reese said, “You walk into any given housing unit day-in and day-out, the smells, the sounds, the reverberation. It’s exhausting for our staff.”
They say they need to better serve people while they’re here and better prepare them to make a change.
“And if we can prevent future crimes, we save money,” Reese said.
The bond is estimated to cost a homeowner with around a $470,000 value about $4.50 a month. For businesses, it’s around $8.20.