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New Report Details Unsafe Conditions At Montgomery County Jail

Montgomery County Jail
Joshua Chenault

The Montgomery County Jail is overcrowded, poorly designed, and chronically understaffed, according to a new report presented to the Montgomery County City Commission on Tuesday.

The report is the culmination of two years of work by the Justice Committee, a community group established by the county commission to examine conditions at the jail after numerous lawsuits.

The findings detail a variety of safety issues at the jail, including overcrowding.  The facility houses nearly twice as many inmates as it should. That has led to reduced inmate supervision and the loss of recreational space, according to the report.

Committee Co-chair Rabbi Bernard Barsky says the jail also lacks adequate space for medical or mental health treatment services.

“The Montgomery County jail facility does not provide a minimally adequate environment for staff or inmates. Renovation or remodeling to address the many problems with the facility is neither practical nor cost effective.”

The report recommends replacing the current jail facility with a new building. Plans to renovate the jail’s first floor are currently underway, but commissioners say building an all-new facility could take years.

The committee also says understaffing at the jail is “near crisis proportion,” and suggests hiring 55 more correctional officers to fill in gaps. But Montgomery County Sheriff Rob Streck says he’s already having trouble filling open positions.

“If the commission looked at me right now and said we just granted you this many more new bodies at this point I am panicked because I don't know how I'm going to find those bodies,” says Streck.  “I promise you we will do everything in our power to try to fill them. But it's just another thing in society where we're having trouble finding people who want to go work into a county jail.”

Commissioners say they’ll now split into work groups to examine the over 100-page report’s recommendations.