County commission makes purchase to help with crowded jail, prisoner transport issues

Facing an overcrowded jail and vehicles in decline, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office will be buying a new van to transport inmates.

Wednesday, Douglas County Sheriff Ken McGovern and Capt. Doug Woods requested $30,066 to buy a new van.

Currently, the Sheriff’s office has three vehicles – two vans and an SUV – that they use to transport inmates around the region, Woods said.

In 2015, the three vehicles drove approximately 94,000 miles transporting 623 distinct inmates to separate jails in the area for a total of 1,240 trips, Woods said. The jail also moves inmates to doctors, dentists and for warrant-related issues, he added.

While the numbers for 2016 are not yet complete, McGovern said he expects they will be equal to, or higher than 2015 totals.

The Douglas County Jail houses 186 inmates, and when the facility is full they need to house men and women in other area jails.

Woods said at the moment, a total of 73 Douglas County inmates are housed in five area counties. So far this year, the county has spent $818,000 farming inmates out to other facilities, he said.

Moving inmates back and forth takes a toll on the transport vehicles, McGovern said. And the county tries to replace each van or SUV when it reaches approximately 120,000 miles.

One transport vehicle, bought in 2015, already has 32,000 miles on it, McGovern said. Another has around 90,000 miles and will need to be replaced sometime in mid-2017.

The commission unanimously approved McGovern’s request to buy a new van and Commissioner Jim Flory asked the two men to look up a few numbers regarding the jail’s overcrowding issue.

“At some point this issue of cost of housing inmates in other jurisdictions is an issue I think the public needs to consider,” he said. “In my mind the amount we spend on staff and making those 1,240 trips, I imagine many times it’s not just a single officer or employee.”

Flory asked McGovern and Woods to look into how much the vehicles, gasoline and staff are costing the county. Both men agreed.

“I think that would be an eye opening number and one we should have available to the public,” Flory said.