Boyle searches for jail solution

September 15, 2004|LIZ MAPLES

Inmates sleep on the floor, with and without mats, at the Boyle County Detention Center. The population has doubled in the past year, but the jail still loses money.

Magistrates are looking for ways to bail the jail out of its financial problems.

"We're in difficult financial times and it's only getting worse," Judge-Executive Tony Wilder said at the Fiscal Court meeting Tuesday.

Magistrates asked if the jail would save money if state inmates were turned away. The county spends $31.65 a day to feed, bed and care for an inmate. The state reimburses the county $26.51 a day.

Wilder explained that 70 percent of the jail's costs are fixed, and would be present with or without state inmates. He said that the Boyle and Mercer counties knew when they built the jail that they would lose money on state inmates.

Half of the jail is unsecured and only suitable for state inmates. Juveniles also used to be kept there, but the state started using its own regional juvenile detention centers.


Wilder suggested that the county research accepting federal prisoners on the maximum security side of the jail. The federal government would reimburse $40 -$45 a day for its inmates, and it pays for medical costs. The state pays less than $2 a day to cover medical costs.

But Wilder pointed out that state inmates perform in-kind labor. Boyle estimates that if it hired labor at minimum wage to do the jobs that inmates have done it would have cost $500,000 last year.

Magistrates suggested that the county look at ways to expand the jail. Magistrate Jim Ryan asked if the garage at the jail could be closed and made into another wing. Other magistrates discussed whether the unsecured side of the jail, built for state and juvenile inmates, could be remodeled.

Magistrate Phil Sammons asked about home incarceration. The county has considered contracting with a company for equipment, including ankle bracelets, so that judges could permit some people to be detained in their homes.

Right now the beds are full with the counties' own inmates. Jailer Barry Harmon said that to have 75 Boyle and Mercer inmates is a high population, but now there are 140. Tuesday there were 230 inmates.

The number of people arrested has gone up, and more warrants are being issued, said Richard Campbell, county attorney.

The overcrowding at the jail, which is not an anomaly for the state, has created an immediate need for mats, sheets and towels.

Magistrates approved $1,650 Tuesday to buy mats. Harmon said that a local nursing home is going to donate sheets.

He said that a Pharaoh's Pizza is going to feed the prisoners pizza two Sundays a month to help alleviate the cost of meals. It costs the county $2.50 a meal or $7.50 a day to feed an inmate.

Wilder said that the Department of Corrections called him and said that the state can feed its inmates for $1 a meal, and that it would help the county get its food costs down.

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