A private jail-consulting firm could save taxpayers millions of dollars and help reform a detention center once plagued by problems, LaRue County Judge-Executive Tommy Turner said.
Turner reported Thursday that taxpayers already have saved about $500,000 this fiscal year, since the county hired Leitchfield-based Stanton Consulting to recommend ways to increase efficiency and cut costs at the LaRue County Jail.
Last fall, Stanton Consulting conducted a feasibility survey to determine jail capacity and layout restructuring in the hopes of saving the county-operated facility money.
“As a result, we were able to add about 25 beds or so to the jail,” Turner said.
Adding beds means adding revenue to the facility. Each occupied bed brings in about $32 to the jail – that’s about $800 a day, Turner said, or more than $24,000 a month.
“This is how we’ve been able to keep the jail fund from dipping into local taxpayer’s pockets thus far,” Turner said.
Jails and detention centers are notoriously taxing to operate, Turner said. Most counties lose money from jail operations and are forced to supplement the facility using taxpayer funds.
Hardin County reportedly injects more than $3 million of taxpayer money to support its facility, while Nelson County reportedly contributes more than $1.2 million to its jail fund. That’s money that could be used to improve schools, upgrade water services or tackle other problems in the county.
LaRue had been spending more than $500,000 annually to offset jail budget woes, Turner projected.
“But what we have spent with Stanton Consulting we have seen about a 10-1 return cost,” he said. “The proof’s in the pudding on this one. No taxpayer dollars into the jail fund for (eight) months.”
Stanton Consulting is owned by Joey Stanton, according to records on file with the Kentucky Secretary of State’s Office. Stanton was a former jailer in Grayson County for 28 years, where he managed 135 employees and oversaw 600 inmates.
“I ran a self-supporting jail all the years I was there,” he said.
Stanton also served on policy advising commission to two governors.
His company has been paid about $60,000 since last fall, from state-managed funds from the Class D inmate program.
Stanton admits there have been past problems with the LaRue County Jail.
In July 2007, a state inspection revealed drug paraphernalia, pornography, homemade knives and hooch there. In addition to the contraband search, 59 LaRue inmates were tested for drug use – four tested positive for marijuana; eight for cocaine. But a year later, none of the jail’s 47 inmates tested positive for drugs, according to information obtained through an open records request by The LaRue County Herald News.
That’s a sign of improvement, Stanton said. Based on his company’s advice, the jail has also expanded capacity and upgraded facilities.
Turner hopes after implementing more policies the jail can transform into a “model program” that’s a “great example of a government service working as it should.”
Stanton said it’s already on its way.
“LaRue County is probably one of the 10 jails in the state now that’s self-supporting,” he said. “I’m glad to be there helping. I think if most counties had the foresight (of Judge Turner and Jailer Mac Trumbo) they would see a lot of improvements in their jail.”