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Letter: Additional inmates mean profit

The public overall has historically been willing to pay for their local law enforcement services. When one is able to dial 911 and receive help when they need it, there is an understandable cost to this. The cost of incarcerating our criminals, although more of a bitter pill, is still something most people are willing to fund. The drunk driver involved in a fatal collision, drug dealers selling meth, those sexually abusing our children, and also those that take another’s life.

They all have been behind our locked doors. The vast majority would agree that they need to be incarcerated, thus making our County Jail a necessity.

When I took office as sheriff in 2011 I inherited a jail that by many accounts had been underperforming for years. We have since brought the inmate numbers up and far exceeded our revenue expectations for 2013.

The year before I took over as Sheriff the jail took in $57,654 in revenue for the boarding of other prisoners. In 2013 we got that number up to $220,000.

The board for good reason has been after sheriffs to increase revenue in the jail. I have found a way to do that. The issue is that to double the number of inmates in your jail you also need the staff to do it. In other words, it takes money to make money. Properly increasing staff, although will actually be money well spent, is something the Board has been reluctant to do. The board feels that they were lied to by the Department of Corrections (DOC) 10 years ago on staffing needs when the jail was built. So I can truly see why they are being cautious today. Today the DOC is telling them that we will need one additional Corrections Officer on each “team” in order to meet their minimum staffing requirements if our inmate population exceeds 60-inmates.

Myself and the jail administrator have told the Board that this additional staff member is not only a requirement, but also needed for safety reasons. The day-to-day needs of the jail is something I don’t expect individual Board members to understand.

They simply have no experience on this issue. The Board has questioned why we pay the amount of overtime and part-time wages we do in the jail. Having to utilize part-time staff is a direct reflection on not having enough full-time staff. If we did, we wouldn’t have to use our part-time staff the way we do. We don’t have the luxury of not filling shifts when someone calls in sick or takes vacation.

We HAVE TO replace that person.

We chose to use part-time staff as much as we can in an effort to save money. They don’t receive the benefits such as health insurance like full-time employees do. So it does make sense to have part-time staff.

What gets frustrating is when the board second guesses those in charge of running the jail and chose to spend $17,500 of taxpayer dollars to provide them with the same information that I already gave them. The question at hand is simple: does it make sense financially to put additional inmates in our jail?

In other words, what are the additional costs associated with taking on these additional inmates? Hubbard County would be creating five additional jobs. Would the return on this investment be worth it? I certainly wouldn’t have proposed the idea if we would be losing money or even breaking even. But instead, I provided a detailed breakdown that shows a quarter million dollar a year PROFIT and a decrease in the tax levy, making this a win-win for the taxpayers.

Cory Aukes

Hubbard County Sheriff