Jail plans may impact county

Published 5:00 am Thursday, April 5, 2001

As state officials struggle to deal with new inmate housingcommitments, Lincoln County law enforcement leaders are waiting tosee how the actions will impact their inmate housing plans.

While construction crews were completing the $3.4 million newcounty jail last summer, Sheriff Lynn Boyte said the county waspromised 20 non-violent state inmates to be assigned to county workcrews and help out elsewhere.

“Hadn’t a one of them shown up yet,” Boyte said Wednesday.

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Gov. Ronnie Musgrove Wednesday said he will seek informationfrom county sheriffs to see how many of the approximately 1,500state inmates currently housed in county jails could be moved toprivate prisons and regional facilities. Legislation passed overthe governor’s veto increased the state’s financial obligation tothe facilities and state officials are looking into how to meetthose commitments beginning July 1.

Wednesday’s Lincoln County jail population was 44 inmates, ofwhich 20 were state inmates. The new jail’s capacity isapproximately 125.

Currently, the state and city pay $20 a day per inmate forhousing in the county jail. Boyte said negotiations to housefederal inmates, at a rate of around $27 a day, are continuing.

Regarding the promised state inmates, Boyte said they couldsupplement work crews and do tasks such as welding, carpentry,mechanic work and general labor. They could also be placed undersupervisors’ supervision to do a variety of beat work.

“That would give us 20 additional people that we wouldn’t haveto pay any salary to,” Boyte said.

Boyte also saw some financial assistance to the county in beingable to house state inmates at the new facility.

“That would go a long way toward helping offset the cost of thejail,” the sheriff said.

State inmates awaiting trips to the penitentiary made up a goodpart of the population of the old jail, which had a capacity of 35.However, the population commonly had 65-70 inmates housed.

“We didn’t have choice but to build the jail here,” Boytesaid.

With the local court system caught up, Boyte said the new jailhas the space for housing state and federal inmates. With thehigher payment rate, federal inmates would be better financially,but they would not be able to be used on work crews.

For housing state inmates, Boyte said state facilities should befilled and county needs met first and then private prisons could beconsidered if they are still needed. With the new stateobligations, the sheriff was uncertain about the prospects of thecounty getting state inmates as earlier indicated.

“I don’t feel like we’ll get any of our requests back until theyget their facilities full up there,” Boyte said.