Lawrence County Jail population numbers up in 2017

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DEADWOOD, S.D. (KOTA TV) Aided by a $2 million MacArthur Foundation grant, Pennington County is embarked on an ambitious effort to lower its jail population by 20 percent. It is not the only county in KOTA Territory keeping an eye on the number of inmates. Last year Lawrence County had the highest jail population in its history.

"Our average daily population was at record numbers for 2017," said Lawrence County Sheriff Brian Dean.

The Lawrence County Jail was built during the Ford Administration and and can hold a maximum of 51 inmates. In 2009 the average daily population in the jail was a then record 41. But the numbers went back down to for the next decade to near the historic norm of 31.

But last year the number spiked to 42. And in December that number was 48.

"We were very close to what our limits would be," said Dean. "But it's certainly fair to say those limits were very taxed because of our jail population."

The county never reached overflow and didn't have to house any inmates in other facilities and Sheriff Dean says it's important to not jump to any conclusions.

"We want to make sure we stay patient through the process of understanding whether 2017 represents an anomaly or represents a coming trend," said Dean.

But also, says Dean, the county should be arm itself with the proper information should the need arise to talking about expanding the jail, or building a new one.

"It's now most prudent for Lawrence County to reach out to an appropriate agency that can help us forecast what our likely average daily population will be in the coming years," he said.

Dean shared his idea for engaging an outside specialist with the Lawrence County Commission this month.