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The cost of keeping inmates in regional jails in the state may go up, and counties and municipalities are concerned.
At a meeting of the Legislative Oversight Committee on Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority Tuesday evening, members heard results from a working group of statewide stakeholders about the daily rate for inmates.
The amount counties and municipalities pay has been capped at $48.25 per inmate since 2018, but is set to expire in July.
Committee staff counsel William Valentino said that amount falls short of actual cost to run the jails
“From my experience, working for corrections, they have to make up that money somewhere,” he said. “What I’m being told is that they are running out of revenue sources to make up the money that they are losing by the actual costs of per diem versus the $48.25.”
Valentino said the State Budget Office has already stated the per diem rate will increase to $54 in July, unless the legislature takes action in their upcoming session.
The working group of various officials from across the state met from May through September to discuss the per diem increase. The group included representatives from the governor’s office, the Supreme Court, the municipal league, mayors, sheriffs, attorneys and county commissioners.
“The things that we heard from the group over and over again, the common themes for what what was driving the pretrial detention, what was driving the increase in per diems, were either substance use disorders, mental health disorders, or essentially some co-occurring disorders of substance use and mental health,” Valentino said.
He said 80 percent of pretrial detainees, who make up the core of the regional jail system’s population, are arrested as a result of substance use or mental health disorder.
“It’s important for this committee to remember that the jails are not mental health facilities,” Valentino said.
He also highlighted the overcrowding in the state’s jail systems. He said the system in total is designed to hold 4,265 inmates but was currently housing 4,858 inmates, down from a high of 5,177 earlier in the year. Valentino said on average, pretrial detainees spend 271 days in regional jails.
The working group discussed and came up with many potential solutions, including cost sharing agreements between law enforcement organizations, reporting centers to replace expensive bonds in appropriate cases, and reducing pretrial delays by shifting juvenile abuse hearings to family court.