Sheriff: State inmate funds important for jail operation

Published 6:00 am Thursday, February 19, 2004

Lincoln County officials said a proposed $5 a day cut in thereimbursement rate for housing state inmates in the jail woulddefinitely have an impact on finances and other jail-relatedoperations.

“We need that money in order to be able to support housing thesestate inmates,” said Sheriff Wiley Calcote.

A bill making its way through the Mississippi Legislature wouldlower the reimbursement rate from $20 a day to $15 a day perinmate. Calcote said the current $20 a day rate covers meals andother housing-related costs.

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“It’s kind of a break-even situation,” Calcote said.

Calcote is among sheriffs from across the state who are lobbyingagainst the reimbursement reduction.

“We’re hearing a lot of opposition from the sheriffs and howmuch it’ll cost them if we do this,” said Dist. 39 Sen. CindyHyde-Smith.

Dist. 53 Rep. Bobby Moak questioned why prison costs, which hesaid are around $30 a day, are not being considered. He said hewould not support a county reimbursement reduction if the otheralso was not addressed.

“If somebody’s going to take a hit, everybody can take a hit,”Moak said.

For fiscal year 2003, Lincoln County received $222,362 from thestate in reimbursement for inmate housing-related expenses.

County Administrator David Fields said that total includesper-day costs and reimbursement for state inmates’ medicaltreatment. The total did not separate the two areas.

Calcote said there was nothing to be made by housing stateinmates.

Currently, he said the county clears about $3 a day per inmate.That suggests the rate could be lowered, but not to the $15 a daythat is being considered.

“It possibly could, but it needs to stay around $20 in order tomake it worthwhile to house state inmates,” Calcote said.

The number of state inmates housed at the county jailfluctuates. On Wednesday, 12 jail occupants were designated asstate inmates.

In some cases, sheriff’s department officials transport inmatesto state facilities shortly after sentencing. In others, inmatesstay at the jail until they are picked up by state officials whenspace is available.

“Some of them are more trouble than others,” Calcote said indiscussing the handling of state inmates.

Calcote said state inmates held for any length of time at thejail are typically on one of the county work crews picking uplitter or doing other tasks. Calcote also mentioned plans to haveinmates work with county supervisor crews.

“You’ve got to also figure that in as far as the jail (costs)and who will be supervising them,” Calcote said.

County officials said the reimbursement reduction could affectother plans that would utilize state inmate labor. Calcote said hehas spoken with lawmakers urging them to maintain the $20 a dayreimbursement.

“If they choose not to leave it there, we’ll have to work it thebest way we can,” Calcote said.

Calcote said he wants to continue the inmate work programs.

“I think there’s a benefit to have them around the countyworking roads and doing what they can,” Calcote said.