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Tribe to house inmates in new jail

(MCT) – Nez Perce County has reached an agreement with the Nez Perce Tribe to house inmates at the new county jail in North Lewiston.

Nez Perce County commissioners unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding July 20 to house tribal inmates. The Nez Perce Tribal Police Department has traditionally housed inmates at other county jails throughout the region.

The $19.1 million Nez Perce County Jail began housing inmates in June. The jail’s 178-bed capacity has led Nez Perce County officials to look toward housing inmates from other jurisdictions to help defray costs of the new jail and sheriff’s office complex.

“I think it’s a benefit to both the sheriff’s office and the Nez Perce Tribe,” Capt. Steve Lutes, the jail’s commander, said of the agreement. Lutes said his staff wanted to get comfortable with the new complex before housing other inmates.

The intent is to keep inmates closer for appearances in Nez Perce Tribal Court in Lapwai, Nez Perce Tribal Police Chief Leslie Hendrick said following the meeting. The tribal police department already has agreements with Clearwater, Latah and Lewis counties.

She said the Nez Perce County agreement will also allow for short-term incarceration of inmates. Police officers can sometimes spend a few hours of their shift taking people under arrest to jails, Hendrick said, and officers could benefit from additional time on patrol.

“The purpose is for convenience in having the officers in their patrol area more.”

Hendrick said longer-term inmates would continue to be housed in Latah, Lewis and Clearwater counties.

The agreement was previously approved by the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee.

Lutes said the sheriff’s office will rent jail beds out at a rate of $50 per prisoner per day, the same terms as an agreement recently signed to house inmates from Kootenai County.

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A lack of overflow in capacity prevented any Kootenai County inmates from being housed in Lewiston. But Lutes said he expects that county’s jail roster to increase enough to allow them to ship inmates to Nez Perce County.

Aside from the tribe and Kootenai County, the sheriff’s office also reached an agreement to house inmates from the Idaho Department of Juvenile Correction. The jail is now housing one inmate who turned 18 and is awaiting completion of his sentence, Lutes said.

Fifty-seven people were housed in the Nez Perce County Jail as of July 20.

Aside from the agreement, the commissioners approved a $415,000 grant with the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation for improvements including crack and chip sealing and apron work at the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport. The approval July 20 was for the third of three portions of a grant appropriated over the last two years, airport manager Robin Turner told commissioners.

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