As of Monday morning, there were 103 inmates in custody at the Barton County Jail. That’s making finding room for more a problem.
“We’re at capacity,” Sheriff Brian Bellendir told the Barton County Commission during its meeting Monday. The facility is rated to hold 115, but that includes utilizing unused juvenile and booking cells.
However, even at the maximum, the sheriff said he could squeeze in a few more inmates.
The average count this year has been about 98, Bellendir estimated. That’s above last year’s average of 92.
“I’m not at the point where we have to ship prisoners out” to facilities in other counties, he said. For now, he is able to shuffle inmates around internally.
The majority of the prisoners – around 90 – are behind bars for county cases. In addition, there are about 15 in for City of Great Bend cases.
There are also a few from some of the surrounding counties that don’t have a jail of their own, Bellendir said. The county is required by statute to help in these instances.
However, “we are not soliciting any prisoners,” he said. The county has contracted in the past to house inmates from larger counties when their jails were full.
In fact, the sheriff said, he could be looking to farm prisoners elsewhere himself. “If the trend continues, it could be a possibility.”
And, it is likely it will. Leading to the crowded conditions are increased sentences, longer times for inmates awaiting trial, and an uptick in criminal and law enforcement activity, Bellendir said.
A decade ago, he said the jail averaged 50 to 60 per day. “But that has changed over time. I don’t see it ending at any time in the near future.”
Further more, there tend to be more criminals in custody in the winter, he said.
“We’re seeing this all over the state,” Bellendir said. New jails are built and, before long, they are full.