LaRue County Detention Center is one of several detention facilities across the state that are bracing for the financial strains of House Bill 463.
HB 463, a bill aimed at reducing prison sentences for low-risk, non-violent drug offenders, went into effect last month.
The reductions in prison populations are estimated to save the state $40 million annually, but in return will strain the small budgets of local governments. County Judge-Executive Tommy Turner estimated in March that the potential reduction in funding would equal a $750,000 deficit to the jail.
“We’ve transitioned very smoothly,” said LaRue County Jailer Johnny Cottrill “We haven’t seen that big of a reduction yet.”
The facility is equipped to hold 153 inmates, including state, county and federal, and currently has a state inmate population of 105.
Although state inmate populations in surrounding counties are low, Cottrill is optimistic that with hard work and networking, the jail can maintain a steady level of state inmates.
Cottrill says that jail staff is “constantly calling” detention facilities in the eastern part of the state where inmates are in overpopulated conditions.
Cottrill hopes that the state road crew program will help to maintain some of the state prisoners.
The program is a contract between LCDC and the state highway department to assist with work such as tree trimming and trash cleanup. The crews consist of level one state inmates and are composed of 5-12 inmates at a time.
LCDC is the only facility locally that holds a contract of this nature with the state. Currently there are two road crews in service with the possibility of expansion. A third road crew is being planned for work in Green County.
The federal inmate contract that Fiscal Court entered into with the U.S. Marshal’s Office in February was projected to produce up to $950,000 plus additional fees for transportation, enough to offset the projected deficit with the loss of state inmates. The contract pays $38 per inmate per day, $18 per hour for guards as needed and 52 cents per mile for prisoner transportation and all medical expenses.
With only three federal inmates currently being housed in the facility, the funds do not equal nearly what were projected, leaving a window open for financial deficit.
“I think that we are being tested with the three that we have,” said Cottrill of the federal inmates. With the federal contract new at the facility it will take awhile to pick up the flow of federal inmates.
To obtain the federal contract LCDC had to make costly improvements. Four specialized doors were installed that were designed to comply with the federal government at a price tag of $36,000.
“It takes money to make money,” said Cottrill “We’re trying to improve.”
According to Cottrill, compared to July 1 through December 2010 and January through July of this year he has cut down $60,000.
Cottrill attributes these savings to “good choices” and having fewer, yet better qualified staff.
When Cottrill started his duties in January there were 31 employees, currently there are 24 full time and two part time employees.
“We’ve cut back on deputies,” said Cottrill “But we’ve got a good staff.”
Cottrill said that his experience as jailer has been “real enjoyable.”
“It’s been a transition from being in police work,” said Cottrill, former city police chief, “but my training’s went well.” Cottrill said that he plans to continue to find ways to save money at the facility and will work to increase income.