• DETENTION CENTER LEVY: Let’s review the numbers

    • 80


      The number of beds currently available at the existing Lewis & Clark County Detention Center which is located in the Law Enforcement Center (LEC). This is up from 54 beds when the current facility was opened in 1985.

    • 100+


      Individuals typically incarcerated at the Lewis & Clark County Detention Center, with others in available space throughout the state.

    • 92%


      Percentage of inmates who are eventually released back into the community.

    • $150,000 - $250,000

      $150,000 - $250,000

      The annual budgeted amount for housing Lewis & Clark County inmates in facilities throughout the state due to overflow. This does not include the transportation costs, medical costs or delays in the criminal case process. Even more serious, the availability of jail beds throughout the state is disappearing.

    • 11 MILLION

      11 MILLION

      People who were admitted to County and other local jails in 2015 in the nation.

    • 17%


      Percentage of adults in US jails that have serious mental illness.

    • What If Nothing Was Done?

      What If Nothing Was Done?

      On average, there are over 100 people incarcerated at the Lewis and Clark County Detention Center, and others in available space throughout the state. Space is running out. We are not alone. Other detention centers are full, leaving us with nowhere to move our overflow.

      Sheriff Dutton states, "Our capacity to hold inmates has been overrun. This puts our community at risk. We are leveraging pre-trial services, mental health services, 24/7 program and Treatment Court to keep the inmate population down. Lewis and Clark County is growing and our facility was not designed to keep our Detention Officers safe with this many inmates. There are people on the streets that should be in jail, but we have no room. Our Officers are writing tickets instead of making arrests. Repeat misdemeanor offenders are growing because there are no 'jail-time' consequences."

    • Current Facility

      Current Facility

      *Built in 1985 with an overall capacity of 54 inmates.

      *Although bunks were added to increase capacity to 80 beds, the population in custody continues to average over 100 inmates.

      *Lewis and Clark County has averaged between $150,000 - $250,000 per year housing prisoners in other jails - an expense which has actually been as high as $250,975.

      *Even more serious, availability of jail beds within 40 - 90 miles from the county is disappearing.

      *Gallatin and Broadwater Counties are primary locations where we send overflow population. The expense of transporting prisoners long distances to and from court is substantial. 

      *Areas in the current jail are being used for inmate housing that were originally earmarked for education and program functions.

      *Lewis and Clark County’s current facility does not comply with jail codes and standards. Lack of compliance exposes the County to substantial and ongoing liability risks. County officials have been working with corrections experts as well as the design team to ensure adequate resolution of these long-term issues.

      *Renovation options to the existing Law Enforcement Center facility have been voter approved and estimated at $6.5million.



      The levy is for 15 years for the operations and maintenance of the renovated Detention Center.

      $4,000,000 annual operating levy is approximately: 

      $42.86 for a $100,000 home and $85.72 for a $200,000 home.
      Levy payments begin November 2018.
      One mill estimated value in our County based upon 2016 assessment for the state and county taxes is $125,989.

      A total of 31.75 mills are estimated.


    • What is the funding levy?

      What is the funding levy?

      Our jail is overcrowded and outdated. Failing technology and overcrowding puts us all at risk. The funding levy allows jail improvements to move forward and will cover operating expenses for the new, modern jail.

      The County’s number one job is safety for the public and our guards.

    • What jail improvements are funded?

      What jail improvements are funded?

      Lewis and Clark County voters in November 2016 approved a $6.5 million bond issue to improve and expand the jail. In November 2017, voters passed a levy authorizing the annual detention center maintenance.

    • What’s wrong with the jail now?

      What’s wrong with the jail now?

      The current jail is old and failing. The electronic control board that lets guard monitor cells is old and doesn’t work properly. Jail doors open and close randomly on their own. Forty monitoring cameras don’t work due to outdated software. This failing technology puts guards and the public in danger.

      The jail is also overcrowded. It was constructed in 1985 to hold 54 inmates, but must now hold twice that number. Several guards have been injured – and even hospitalized - due to unsafe, crowded conditions.

    • What is the county doing to address the problems now?

      What is the county doing to address the problems now?

      Makeshift improvements over the years have helped the jail house more inmates, but it’s still not enough.

      Bunks were added to cells to increase capacity, but it’s now necessary to place some prisoners in unsecured areas, such as the jail library and staff offices, due to overcrowding. Keeping inmates in these less secure areas places guards and the public at risk.

      Taxpayers also pay more than $250,000 each year to transport overflow prisoners to jails in neighboring counties. This is expensive and only a short-term solution. Neighboring jails also are running out of space.

      Currently, some offenders who should be in jail are not. There simply isn’t room for them. Law officers are writing tickets instead of making arrests. This puts the public at risk. It also results in more repeat crimes, since there are no “jail time” consequences for people who commit crimes.

    • How will the levy improve the jail and keep our county safe?

      How will the levy improve the jail and keep our county safe?

      The levy allows for expansion of the jail and improved technology that will keep guards and the public safe. It will fund operation of the modern jail for the next 15 years. It also will fund intervention programs that will reduce repeat offenses and keep people out of the justice system.

    • How much will the levy cost?

      How much will the levy cost?

      The cost of the levy is $42.86 annually for the owner of a $100,000 home and $85.72 annually for the owner of a $200,000 home.

    • Can I see the problems for myself?

      Can I see the problems for myself?

      Yes. We encourage you to tour the jail to learn more. You can schedule a tour by calling Allen Ireland in the Sheriff’s Office at 447-8235 or 447-8204.

    • Who proposed the levy?

      Who proposed the levy?

      The Lewis and Clark Citizens Advisory Council, which includes District Court judges, the justice of the peace, city judge, county attorney, office of public defender, probation and parole, Helena police chief, Helena city manager, Board of County Commissioners, youth probation, and members of the public has evaluated the need for jail improvements and has recommended putting the levy on this year’s election ballot.

    • What is the status of the land purchase done in advance of a past vote?

      What is the status of the land purchase done in advance of a past vote?

      Lewis and Clark County, through capital investment and long term financial planning, had the funds available to secure 40 acres of land located northeast of I15.  The City of Helena has now acquired all but 15 acres of that property for a payment from the County of just over $719,000.

    • What is the County doing now to deal with the challenges of the detention center population?

      What is the County doing now to deal with the challenges of the detention center population?

      1. Our Sheriff has reviewed the operational and staffing needs of the detention center and made operational changes to increase staffing.
      2. The County Commission identified the need for a full time position to coordinate criminal justice related actions and data collection for detention center related functions to reduce risks as possible. A full-time Criminal Justice Office Director was hired.
      3. A family court and treatment court are being implemented by Judge Reynolds, 1st Judicial District.
      4. A jail assessment report was conducted in 2015. The assessment identifies factors that drive the prison population.
    • Will the Levy funds address jail diversion and mental health treatment?

      Will the Levy funds address jail diversion and mental health treatment?

      Yes.  The proposed levy includes an estimated $725,000 per year for Jail Diversion and risk reduction programs and services.  Training, and criminal justice programs as identified     in the Citizens Advisory Council (CAC) report to the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) are proposed.

      Mental Health, Pretrial, and early interventions resources will be provided.

      These initiatives to be aimed at reducing the long term detention needs and to limit the use of expensive incarceration for only those that truly need it.


The current Lewis and Clark County Law Enforcement Center (Detention Center) is located at 221 Breckenridge Ave. in Helena and will be renovated to house more inmates.


The new Law and Justice Center will be located in the old Blue Cross Blue Shield headquarters building at 406 Fuller Ave. It will house the Helena Police Department and the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s office.


  • Detention Center Levy Budget (PDF)
  • Law Enforcement Center Feasibility Study (PDF)
  • Detention Center Remodel Programming Document (PDF)
  • Timeline (PDF)
  • Architecture Contract (PDF)
  • Architecture Contract – Construction Phase (PDF)
  • Construction Contract (PDF)
  • Guaranteed Maximum Price Construction Amendment (PDF)