Wichita — In a bid to control admissions and reduce crowding, Sedgwick County soon will consider charging cities for housing their inmates in the county jail.
The measure is intended to make local officials consider issuing tickets when appropriate rather than jail time.
According to a 2005 survey by the county, most surrounding counties and most others in the state with populations more than 30,000 already charge cities a fee to house inmates.
"It has the effect of causing everyone to think about why they're jailing an inmate ," said County Commissioner Dave Unruh, who raised the issue at a recent staff meeting. "The practical effect is, it changes the way folks do business."
Unruh said the county will open a discussion about the matter with its Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. By the end of the year, it would have a better idea of whether to proceed with the plan, and come up with a formula for the fees.
"We have to take every opportunity we can, use every tool we have, to try to control admissions to the jail," Unruh said.
The fees wouldn't be used to reduce the bonds for the $48 million project to expand the jail and add alternative programs, which the county approved earlier this year. The money would be used to offset administrative and operational costs.
Unruh said that by the time the new 384-bed expansion is completed in 2009, operational costs at the jail will approach $7 million a year.
Sheriff Gary Steed said it costs the county about $30 a day to house an inmate in the jail. Those costs include such items as food, medical care and laundry. The money comes out of the sheriff's budget. Factoring in the cost of electricity and water, and depreciation of the building, the cost per inmate goes up to $56 or $57 a day, he said.