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Larimer County prioritizes mental health with new $80 million jail expansion

Larimer County shows off new jail that's better for both inmates, law enforcement
Larimer County shows off new jail that's better for both inmates, law enforcement 01:47

Larimer County has started moving into the new $80 million expansion of their jail located near Fort Collins, and the staff within are boasting of the facility's ability to blend corrections with human decency. Architects and county officials designed many aspects of the jail to protect the mental health of both inmates and staff. 


"We've learned a lot over the years on how we can continue to improve," said Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith. "A huge piece of this project was not to simply add beds."

While more than 150 additional beds will help the country catch up with population growth since the last jail project was completed in the 1980s, Smith said the new expansion rethinks how the jail tries to enforce the law while also treating inmates as humans who will most likely be released back into society in a short time. 

"We took the human dignity factor in," Smith said.

The new facility helps the county catch up with current state standards. 

Architects also tried to implement the use of natural light in most common spaces in the facility. In the intake room, many areas of the pods and more have natural light. Skylights and more help bring in light from outside while also preventing inmates from being able to see out into the surrounding community. 

Many new holding areas now have greater privacy for inmates using the restroom while also making sure proper surveillance can be maintained. 


"We are dealing with human beings. If we don't factor that in we can create an environment that is not healthy and could make them worse off after incarceration," Smith said. 

The new addition also helps improve morale and unity within the sheriff's office. Not only does the building now connect the jail to the patrol and administrative offices, but it also gives employees new places to socialize, relax and even train. 

In the old facility, many employees would go into the building and not see natural light until their shifts ended. They would be confined to the same brick walls the inmates were, and even their break rooms were designed much like pods.   

"Now we have staff-specific areas that look like a restaurant," said Bobby Moll, Jail Captain for LCSO. 

Now there are break rooms that overlook Fort Collins, with easy access to comfortable seating, outdoor balconies, televisions and even brand-new locker rooms. 

"It's just a place where they can decompress for 15 or 20 minutes and not feel like they are in jail themselves. It is important for mental health," Moll said. 


As he finishes his final weeks as sheriff due to term limitations, Smith said he hoped the new facility would help set the bar for other future jail expansions across the country. 

"There is nothing luxury about being locked up in any part of the Larimer County Jail. But, there is more humanity through what we are doing with this design," Smith said. 

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