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County Jail Study results presented

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Posted: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 8:32 pm

Lynn Greenwood of Texas A&M has completed the Jail Budget Comparison Study for Liberty County and presented the results to commissioners Tues., Oct. 23 in the regular court meeting. Sarah Beth Bolin of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition originally requested Greenwood’s study in early summer of this year to help the county determine if taking over management of the jail was in their best interest.

The results attracted many observers to the meeting included 253rd District Court Judge Chap Cain, 75th District Court Judge Mark Morefield and County Court at Law Judge Tommy Chambers.

The report compares county jail budgets of 17 counties approximately the same size as Liberty County. Data were categorized as: Personnel, Inmate and Operational Costs.

Across the 17 counties personnel costs are the highest, averaging 77.00%. Inmate costs average 17.82% and operations 4.89%.

Greenwood asked, “What can we glean from the data?” She reported the pros/benefits of de-privatizing are: local control and the ability to adjust when jail population fluctuates.

The challenges include: renegotiation of contracts, such as food and medical services. The fact that the county has not had management control of the jail in over 20 years poses the challenge of having no institutional memory and the need to find a jail administrator, bringing in external institutional memory.

The county instituted a bond supervision program and successfully reduced the jail population, “undermined by the increased cost of housing inmates”, says Greenwood. The current management company, Correctional Education Centers (CEC) increased their per person per day (PPPD) with lower jail population. In Tuesday’s court meeting, commissioners approved a payment for September 2012 to CEC for $333,972, a cost of $72 PPPD. The study determined the appropriate PPPD cost for Liberty County should be $43.70.

14 county jails in the state of Texas are currently operated by one of six private corporations.

The study includes nine counties with populations larger than Liberty County and eight counties smaller. Counties evaluated include: Tom Green, Kaufman, Victoria, Angelina, Hunt, Orange, Henderson, Rockwayy, Coryell, Bastrop, Harrison, San Patricio, Nacogdoches, Wise, Anderson, Hardin and Rusk.

Judge Cain commented after the presentation, “My observations are that we are being way overcharged. We are subsidizing CEC to house federal inmates. The bond program is working well. We have reduced the jail population from around 215 down to between 130 and 150. We can further reduce the population to 100 by instituting an ankle monitoring system, that tracks alcohol use and has GPS. The monitoring system would allow us to take 30-50 inmates out of jail, letting us reduce the number of employees and reduce the costs significantly.” Cain continued, “I can save taxpayers between one to two million dollars. It’s that simple. It’s time to take the jail back. We can operate it. We’ve got the skills. We can make things better. It’s time we took control.”

County Judge Craig McNair added, “The take away is that Liberty County is the exception to the rule. I think 100 jail population is not far-fetched. We need to be proactive.”

Commissioner Melvin Hunt (Pct. 3) commented, “It used to work.” Commissioner Charlotte Key Warner (Pct. 2) stated, “We would have more control of the costs.”

County Attorney Wesley Hinch noted, “The way our jail is designed it takes more employees to supervise inmates. We need to know how many people does it take to operate the jail.”

In other business, Commissioners voted to change health insurance plans to CIGNA, on the recommendation of Gallagher Benefit Services’ Glynn Johnson. The current health plan is costing the county too much and commissioners are considering opening a health clinic 20 hours per week to give employees/retirees access to reduced cost pharmaceuticals and lab work. Gallegher Benefit Services said the county is spending $250,000 on services the clinic could provide after initial set up costs. A clinic can be set up within 90 days upon commissioners’ approval to proceed. Commissioner Norman Brown (Pct. 4) expressed an interest in having the clinic located in Dayton. An option to have the clinic open in the county building on Palmer Road in Liberty was discussed.

County Auditor Harold Seay informed the court that as of Sept. 30, the general fund has been dipped into by $2.1 million. $21.7 million has been received in revenues and $23.8 million has been spent. 109% of revenues have been received and 96% of budgeted expenditures have occurred.

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1 comment:

  • Analyst posted at 11:08 pm on Sun, Oct 28, 2012.

    Analyst Posts: 2

    This should have hardly been a surprise. When Tulsa, OK and Hernando, FL took back thier county jails from CCA, they found they saved milions and did a much better job. Escapes stopped as well as suicides. Staffing increased to appropriate levels, given the better pay and retention of public employees. The facilities were repaired intead of deteriorating while the corporation was trying to raise its quarterly dividends by a few cents, and their CEOs compensation by a few million.

    CEC is particularly awful. Had the study done by Greenwood included McClennan County, it would have been obvious that CEC's execs should have been tarred and feathered and run out of town.

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