The First Mesa County Jail
The first jail in Mesa County dates back to 1882. It was a city-run jail located between Main Street and Colorado Ave on the east side of 3rd Street. It was described as a one-room, hewn-log building, a very different jail than what stands today.*
The Mesa County Sheriff's Office was founded in 1883. The county jail was constructed on White Avenue between 7th and 8th Streets.*
The original bars of one of the jail cells can still be seen today in the lobby of the now Mesa County Detention Facility.
On April 1, 1906, this county jail housed a man named George McGarvey on charges of attempting to criminally assault a nine-year-old girl. On September 26, 1906, McGarvey escaped by hitting Sheriff’s Deputy Edward Innes with a piece of wood.
Twenty-eight-year-old Deputy Innes passed away the following day, becoming the first Mesa County Sheriff's deputy to die in the line of duty. McGarvey was captured, tried, and sentenced to death by hanging on October 5, 1906.
Learn more about Deputy Edward Innes’ story.
Over the years, several jails have been built, each adding advances in technology and expanding capacity to fit the needs of the sheriff’s office and area law enforcement.
From about the 1920s-1960s, the county jail was located on White Avenue behind what is now known as the Old Mesa County Courthouse. Back then, it served as the center of the county’s justice system. Today, the building is home to the administration of Mesa County’s government.
In 1962, the Mesa County Jail was built at 655 Ute Avenue for the cost of $325,000. It consisted of two floors and a basement and held 86 inmates. The facility also housed the Grand Junction Police Department.
All inmates were booked into the jail manually until the agency began using computers in 1989. Before the advancement in technology, the booking area was infamous for the typewriter with no letter “I” in the reports.
Female jailers were not hired to work in the jail until 1979. Prior to that, the women who worked upfront in the records division were nicknamed “matrons” and they would come back to the jail to help process female inmates. Female detention deputies now make-up about 40% of our detention staff.
Another major change for the jail during this period was the requirement for a law library to be made available for inmate use. The original library consisted of a small room with several shelves of law books. The law library is now digital.
The Mesa County Detention Facility
The current Mesa County Detention Facility was completed in June of 1992 at an estimated cost of $8 million and with a capacity of 192 beds. It’s located at 215 Rice Street in the same building as the administration offices for the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office.
The state-of-the-art direct supervision facility provides housing, food service, and 24-hour medical care to inmates. First-time court advisements are conducted from inside the facility using a televised video system. For other court proceedings, inmates are escorted between the facility and the Mesa County Justice Center via a secure internal passageway.
The modern facility has no traditional jail bars, in its place are over 600 automated reinforced doors. This allows for more inmate privacy and better security through the facility.
The Mesa County Detention Facility has expanded several times. In 1996, two 8,000 square foot “pods” were added on to the facility for a cost of $3.4 million. Each pod originally housed 56 new beds. Additional beds were also added in the corner cells of each existing housing unit bringing the total amount of beds in the facility to 336.
In 2007 and 2008, 54 beds were added to the two newest housing units.
In 2009, the inmate intake areas known as the Booking area was remodeled expanding capacity. When first arrested, inmates are housed here until they are assigned more permanent housing based on their classification. Often times, inmates bond out before they are moved into other areas of the facility. Inmates who need extra supervision are also housed here.
In August of 2016, the gym was remodeled into another housing unit, Maple, adding 48 beds. This is a dormitory-style housing unit.
In 2017 and 2018 bunks were added to the cells to increase bed space.
In May of 2020, due to the reduction of the jail population from COVID-19 prevention measures, as well as staffing and budget reductions, Maple pod was closed.
Mesa County Detention Facility currently has 553 beds, plus the booking area. Male and female inmates are housed separately as are different classes of inmates.
Managing an increasing population in the Detention Facility while maintaining a safe environment for inmates and staff is one of the biggest challenges currently facing the Detention Facility. The passage of Measure 1A, the Public Safety Tax in November of 2017, has allowed for more staff to be hired in the jail. Plans are also in the works to expand the existing jail. The design and cost of such an expansion are currently being explored.
Learn more about what programs are available to inmates and how to contact an inmate currently in the facility.
*Historical information provided by George Crawford’s Attic: Dusting Off Grand Junction, Colorado’s Past by D.A. Brockett.