New Polk County Jail Welcomes Inmates

Facility Can House All County Inmates With Room To Expand

DES MOINES, Iowa — The new Polk County Jail has finally opened its doors to new inmates, ending the county’s long-running practice of sending inmates to various jails throughout the state.


“This is something we’ve needed for over 20 years,” said Polk County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Neil Shultz.


“It’s more efficient for the staff and the inmates,” said facility superintendent Lt. Matt Mertens. “It’s a bigger facility. We’re able to house all of our inmates in one facility, instead of our two jails and (the ones) out of county.”

The new 325,000-square-foot jail sits on a 40-acre site. The facility is big enough to hold up to 1,520 inmates, but the land is big enough to expand the jail at a later date, if needed.


Before daylight on Saturday, deputies, detention officers and the metro Star Unit began preparing to move the jail’s inmates. About 400 of the 930 inmates in Polk County custody were taken on a bus. The others will be moved sometime in the future.


The operation involved months of intricate and logistical planning.


“You always have to be safety conscious and security conscious,” Shultz said. “You have to realize that you’re moving inmates and (keep) the staff’s safety and the public’s safety in the forefront at all times.”


Chris English was one of the South East Polk County school bus drivers who transported the inmates.


“It’s kind of exciting,” he said. “We’ve done this once before, during the floods, and everything goes very smoothly. It’s very well planned out.”


In addition to state-of-the-art security, the jail also has video visitation, which will allow inmates to see loved ones on a more regular basis.


“I think we’ve got about the most safe and secure environment you could have,” Mertens said.



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