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The Marion County Fiscal Court has dipped into its coffers twice this year to help fund the operation of the Marion County Detention Center. In many counties, the court paying for jail expenses would not be unusual, but in Marion County, the detention center operated without local tax money from December of 2003 through September of 2011.
"I prepared the court that it would probably be a redline year," Marion County Jailer Barry Brady said. "I just didn't know the significance of what it would be."
The court approved its first expense for the jail on Sept. 15. This was a $56,364 bill to install a biometric system at the detention center, a one-time expense.
On Nov. 17, however, the court approved a $60,000 transfer to the detention center budget to ensure the jail would be able to cover ongoing expenses, such as payroll.
Marion County Judge/Executive John G. Mattingly said that the jail has generated enough revenue in recent years to cover the costs of hundreds of thousands of dollars in improvements without any assistance from the county. He added that the county has included money in its budget every year for the jail, but this is the first time since he's been in office that it's been needed.
"We actually put a reserve for transfer allocation in our general fund budget and have never had to use it," Mattingly said.
The transfer earlier this month was necessitated in part by the state and federal governments being behind on their payments to the jail. Normally, the detention center receives its payments from the state by the 10th day of the following month. Brady reported that he did not receive his October payment, which was more than $170,000, from the state until Nov. 30.
The Marion County Detention Center, like jails around the state, has been affected by the early release of state prisoners going back at least two years. For the state, housing few prisoners has meant fewer expenses, but for the county jails that has meant a decline in revenue.
The Marion County Detention Center has the beds to house 297 inmates. On Monday, 265 beds were taken, only 36 of which were occupied by Marion County inmates. While the county won't incur any expenses for those 32 empty beds, it also won't receive any revenue from them, either.
And according to Brady, more revenue reductions could be coming in the near future.
The state has announced that it plans to release an additional 1,200 inmates in January. These releases go along with the provisions of HB 463, which was signed into law earlier this year.
"Twenty-seven of those inmates will be from my facility," Brady said.
Under the state contract, the county receives $31.34 per day for each of those 27 inmates. Combined, that's $846.18 per day or nearly $26,000 per month.
Mattingly added that Brady has made some adjustments to his staff and tried to find ways to make the jail operate more efficiently in an effort to minimize expenses.
"He's done about everything he can do management-wise," Mattingly said.
To try to make up for some of the lost revenue, Brady said he will be pursuing grant funds to provide more evidence-based programs to assist inmates who may be eligible for early release. These programs would be in addition to the programs that are already in place.
The jail is about to introduce a new program, Inside/Out Dads, which is aimed at helping inmates be better fathers when they are released. The jail already offers substance abuse and GED programs. The jail also provides general programs, including one-on-one counseling, community service programs, work release, a trustee work program, a janitor work program and custodial training, craft classes and recovery from domestic violence for female inmates, anger management, and Alcoholics Anonymous.
Brady also reported to the fiscal court that he spoke with Department of Corrections Deputy Commissioner Rodney Ballard on Nov. 15. The commission is working on a new jail inspection process that would rank jails based on their operational performance and programs offered.
If the rankings are used to affect where the state sends its inmates, then that could be good for Marion County, in Brady's opinion.
To go along with those efforts, Brady has also tried to market the Marion County Detention Center as a suitable place to house state and federal prisoners, both of which bring revenue into the jail.
At the same time, the competition to house those prisoners has also increased. Since the year 2000, 9,000 new beds have been added to county jails throughout Kentucky, Brady said.
Nevertheless, Brady believes Marion County stacks up well compared to other county jails in the state. Marion County is the only county jail in Kentucky with staff trained to do risk-assessments of inmates who are eligible for parole, and it is the only county jail in Kentucky that has completed American Correctional Association accreditation. With that in mind, Brady said he intends to apply for a contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons in 2012.
"We have shown that we can match national standards," he said.
In the short term, Brady said he expects "rough" revenue months in December and January, but he and his staff will continue to search for new revenue sources for the jail.
"We've got hope. We've got energy. We've got passion," Brady said. "We intend to push."
Fiscal court meeting Saturday about jail situation
The Marion County Fiscal Court has scheduled a special-called meeting at 8 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, at the David R. Hourigan Government Center.
The court has invited State Sen. Jimmy Higdon and State Rep. Terry Mills for a discussion about the effects of state actions regarding prisoners, particularly on the Marion County Detention Center.
The court may also discuss some programs considered for implementation at the detention center.