At today’s county commissioners’ meeting, Bobby Reed of the SEKRCC brought forward numbers he had crunched on jail expenses at Commissioner Albright’s request in an attempt to solving the problem of rising jail expenses. Unfortunately, a permanent solution to the problem seems elusive.
Reed, Undersheriff Bill Martin, and SEKRCC Security Director Julie Miller all presented data that pointed to probation violators as the source of much of the expense, including out-of-county housing. Reed presented reports gathered from the past 19 months. “We may fluctuate a day here or a day there, but until the 26th, we had 45 in and 29 out,” Reed said of the past month. Reed said the number of inmates housed out in the past had been as high as 34. As of today, 32 inmates are housed out of county, according to Reed.
“We have bed space for 52 inmates, but we have to leave a 15% of the 52 open for influx and so forth,” Reed said. Reed explained that jail administration had made a choice last year to house inmates out of county when the number of inmates housed in the county rose to 56, 4 above the maximum.
When asked about the possibility of reducing the jail population, jail officials explained the difficulty of carrying out that request. “The majority [of inmates] are probation violations, and they have to sit there and serve their time,” Miller said. Miller estimated that approximately 75% of inmates are probation violators, and explained further that many of the violators are repeat visitors to the jail. “For a county of 15,000, the population of our jail is outrageous,” Commissioner Harold Coleman said.
“They’re all the same people—it’s a revolving door,” Miller said. Miller explained the process for probation violation, which becomes a cycle for some inmates. “We can only do so much,” Reed said. Miller said that probation violators often “sit for a month” before they go to court because of backlog. “That inmate can sit down there until the judge is ready to see them,” said Martin.
According to Undersheriff Martin, Bourbon County GIS Director Shane Walker is working with the company that created the office’s computer program to help generate more data. The department hopes to generate exact figures on the amount of inmates returning on probation violations.
Commissioner Albright brought up the fact that the national average stay for 75% of inmates is approximately 72 hours. “What’s it going to take to get it down to the national average?” Commission Chairman Warren said. To these queries, Reed responded that many of the arrest warrants that he deals with are “no-bond,” which contributes to the high jail population. Reed estimated that this type of warrant comprises 80% of the warrants he sees.
“We’re not the only county with these issues,” Martin said. “They’re facing the same problems,” Martin explained, and pointed out that eventually housing out of county may not be an option.“If we sift it all out, length of stay is the issue,” Albright said. “What are we doing for effective intervention?” Gray said that there were free programs available and probation counselors whose efforts were directed at preventing probation violations. “It’s the responsibility of the individual,” Martin said of inmates attending counseling and free programs to help inmates fight addiction. “They have to take it upon themselves to stay out of the system.”
With regard to working out a solution, County Attorney Terri Johnson told commissioners that Chief Judge Richard Smith would meet with the commissioners Friday, August 2nd.
Other expenses that commissioners and jail officials considered today were overtime, inmate meal and medical expenses, and supplies.
Commissioner Harold Coleman called the overtime being paid in the Sheriff’s office “staggering.” Coleman said that he had calculated 423.2 hours in the past two weeks. Reed explained that many officers were coming in on their days off in order to transport inmates.
When asked the cost for inmate meals, Reed reported the current cost per inmate per day is only a few cents above $3.00. Gray added that this was reduced from the former cost of $12.00 per inmate per day.
With regard to medical costs, Miller said that the bill for prenatal care for inmates is footed by the SEKRCC budget, as well as any other bills, such as ER visits, that inmates incur while incarcerated. “All these doctor’s bills—they should be repaid by the offender,” Miller said.
In a final query concerning expenses, Warren asked about the recent $1,000 spent on supplies for the jail. “One of the things I think we really need to look at is what are we buying in the way of supplies,” Warren said. Warren said that there had been $1,000 spent on training videos, to which Gray replied that inadequate training leaves the department open to a federal lawsuit.
“Everything we buy is an absolute necessity,” Miller said. Miller explained that she had been sewing to keep materials together and avoid purchasing new materials. “We just need to be looking, always, for ways we can reduce our expenses,” Warren said. “I’d like for the suggestions to come from you.”
In other business:
- Tina Rockhold, Mercy Regional Marketing/Communications Manager, came to the meeting to ask the commissioners for their help in blocking off several roads for the Mercy Day half marathon run. “It’s growing in popularity,” Rockhold said of the run.“We’re adding the 1 mile this year.” Of participation in the event, Rockhold said that around 40 runners participated each of the past two years the event has been held.
Rockhold asked permission to block off parts of Grand Road and Indian Road to “alleviate any traffic problems and keep our runners safe.” She explained that event officials would want to block off the roads by 6AM, and that most runners would be out of the area by 9AM. “It would be just those early morning hours,” Rockhold said. The commissioners gave permission, but asked Rockhold to send a reminder email the week of the event.
- Dwayne Neil, whose bid was accepted for the haying of land at Elm Creek, came to the meeting to request more time to complete the job. “Praise the Lord for the rain, but . . . I’m not going to have it done by the first of August. Your rocks cause problems,” Neil joked, and explained that recent rains had prevented him from haying the land. Neil said that he had gotten about 130 bales out of the land last year, but that last year had been unusually dry. “It is much better this year,” Neil said. Commissioners agreed to extend the deadline to August 10th.