Greene jail helped by revenue sources

February 24, 2013

While the Greene County jail may not be totally self-supporting, it has notable revenue sources that are allowing it not to be a drain on the county’s coffers, especially during these times when taxpayer dollars are better spent on citizens who obey the law.

During this month’s prison board meeting, Warden Harry D. Gillispie presented a comprehensive overview of the jail’s operations last year, including, among other things, a breakdown in the types of crimes that resulted in jail time. The offense leading the list in 2012 was driving under the influence, resulting in 286 incarcerations. Surprisingly, that figure crushed last year’s top offenders – drug violators – by 170 commitments. In 2011, 116 people served jail time for various drug offenses, 77 for manufacturing, delivery or possession; 16 for manufacturing, delivery and possession with intent to deliver; six for marijuana possession; two for possessing contraband; and 15 for having drug paraphernalia.

The number of drug violators sentenced to county time in 2012 was just 57.

In 2012, there were 598 total commitments, a significant decrease from the 719 in 2012 and 734 in 2010. And although the cost to house just one inmate for one day also decreased from $68.27 in 2011 to $66.59 last year, it still cost the county $6,392 per day for housing costs, based on an average daily population of 96 in 2012.

But for the last several years, the Greene County jail has had an ace in the hole called out-of-county prisoners.

Last year alone, Greene County received $650,050 for housing inmates from Fayette County, and, according to Gillispie, Fayette owes the county $50,000 for January 2013 costs. The warden did note, however, the jail’s operating budget for 2012 was $2.3 million. And it wasn’t that many years ago that out-of-county inmate revenue from several other counties was adequate to pay for a large part of a jail expansion.

But another source of revenue is proving to be just as valuable as charging for housing out-of-county inmates and that is weekend and work release fees. Many defendants are offered the benefit of a work release program, whereby they are released from jail in the morning, sent off to a job and returned at night. It was reported a while back there have been people on work release who have pretty good jobs and haven’t paid a dime toward fines and costs. Last year, the county jail received $42,060 in weekend and work release fees.

Another avenue the jail explored to bring in additional revenue was requiring some work release inmates to turn over the checks they receive from employers. The money would be placed in an escrow account to be managed by jail administrators. The inmate would get allowances for child support and other expenses, but money also could be deducted to pay restitution and other court costs.

In 2012, fines and costs totaling $5,670 were collected by the clerk of courts.

We supported this idea when it was introduced a couple of years ago, and we continue to do so.

Some prison board members had reservations initially. They said taking full control of an inmate’s employment check and doling out money as needed would be an administrative nightmare. But going forward with a prison assessment to fulfill financial obligations that might not otherwise be satisfied outweighed any administrative issue the process might have incurred.



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