PUEBLO, COLORADO — A new jail is on the horizon in Pueblo County. On Wednesday, Oct. 5, County leaders broke ground on what aims to be the first net-zero carbon emission facility in the world.
The road to this point has been challenging, but Pueblo Commissioners said the new facility will produce more energy than it can consume. To address climate change, the old Pueblo County Jail will be demolished and a state-of-the-art detention center will take its place.
“We have been working on this for a long time and it’s very nice to see it finally come to fruition,” Sheriff Kirk Taylor of Pueblo County said.
The net-zero energy detention center comes with a price tag of $140 million, and it didn’t come easy.
“As many know, it’s certainly been a journey,” said Garrison Ortiz, Pueblo County Commissioner.
Commissioners said the current jail has faulty plumbing and electrical, and the infrastructure in the existing tower is shot.
“We wanted to look at some creative ways to alleviate pressures with capacity and deteriorating infrastructure,” Commissioner Ortiz explained. “Upon moving into the new facility, the tower of the old jail will be brought down.”
After those living in Pueblo turned down a proposed measure to fund the jail, the Commissioners got creative.
“The lion’s share of funding behind the construction of the new detention facility stems from the successful passage of the 2019 ballot measure, which increased marijuana sales tax from 3.5 to 6%,” Commissioner Ortiz said.
$125 million comes from Pueblo’s COP (certificate of participation) and the remaining $15 million was pooled.
“Any jail in any community, I mean they aren’t sexy, the jails just aren’t but they’re very much the foundation of the criminal justice system,” Sheriff Taylor said.
Nationally, the life span of a jail is around 35 to 40 years. Sheriff Taylor said Pueblo’s current jail is 42 years old.
The 650-bed jail, in addition to being a zero-emissions facility, sits on a wide range of land West of Pueblo Boulevard.
“When we go to expand this jail, we’ll have room to do it,” Sheriff Taylor said. “Thank you Pueblo Community, we will get this done.”
The old Pueblo County Jail will not be completely torn down, an old dormitory will be repurposed into an infirmary for inmates to receive medical care and reduce the need for transport to local hospitals.
The detention center is set to be completed by January 2025.