The Douglas County Commission today approved spending $20,000 to alleviate overcrowding in the county jail and discussed possible long-term solutions for the problem.
The $20,000 will be paid from the commissioner's contingency fund to the Franklin County Jail, which is housing several Douglas County inmates. Last week, Douglas County sent seven inmates to Franklin County, and five inmates remain there today. Franklin County is charging Douglas County $30 a day per inmate to house the prisoners.
Sheriff Loren Anderson said the inmates had been sentenced to county jail time and would remain in Franklin County unless jail space becomes available again here.
But available jail space here isn't likely in the near future, Anderson told the commissioners. This morning's inmate count was 67, he said, 17 more than the 50-prisoner capacity.
Anderson gave commissioners a daily inmate count from Jan. 1 through last Thursday. For October, the average daily count of inmates is 57.8. The jail has been above capacity every day this month, ranging from today's count to 52 inmates on two days last week.
THE ANNUAL average through Thursday is 52.9 inmates a day at the jail. Only in June and July did the jail hold less than its capacity.
Finding places to send inmates is becoming a difficult task, Anderson said. Franklin County also has reached its capacity, thanks in part to Douglas County. Johnson and Wyandotte counties also face chronic overcrowding, he said, and many smaller counties already have contracts with Johnson County to house their prisoners.
Anderson said he would like to get the county's inmate population down to 45, which would allow his department flexibility if more people are sentenced to jail by the courts or if more arrests occur during the day. He said he wants county approval to move prisoners to stay at the 45-inmate level.
"If we try to maintain 45, we'll probably have 50," Anderson said.
THIS COMMENT drew several questions from the commissioners, who wondered why Douglas County should pay other counties to take inmates while keeping the jail below capacity. Anderson repeatedly explained that the number of inmates is constantly changing. He added that an overcrowded jail leaves the county open to liability charges from the inmates, similar to the prison overcrowding problem faced by the state.
Commissioner Mike Amyx said he wants to continue monitoring the jail's inmate count and the number of prisoners in other counties.
County Administrator Chris McKenzie suggested the county consider long-term solutions such as electronic monitoring of prisoners that would allow in-home control of prisoners.