Jail staff quizzed on population numbers, budget

Friday, June 20, 2014

As the Bourbon County Commissioners prepare to begin working on the 2015 budget, they are keeping an eye on current finances.

One of those areas is the Southeast Kansas Regional Correctional Center budget.

On Friday, commissioners met with Assistant County Attorney Valorie LeBlanc, Sheriff Bill Martin, Jail Administrator Bobby Reed, Director of Security Julie Miller and Undersheriff Ben Cole to discuss the number of inmates being housed outside the county.

"A year ago, we had budget problems. All of us working together worked through those," Commission Chairman Allen Warren said. "We don't have budget problems at this point. We don't want to have. So let's talk about where we're headed."

He said the number of inmates being housed outside of the county is more than what it has been recently.

"Is that a trend?" Warren asked.

"We have experienced some things. We've got two or three cases of multiple people we can't house -- some of them being females -- so they're out," Reed said. "A year ago I did state we could house 48 people. That's maximum capacity."

The jail can house 38 males and 10 females, but by not including four cells used for lock down, he said there is room for 34 males and 10 females. That does not include the detoxification and observation cells.

"Here's what I saw the last two to three weeks that I want to bring to your attention, just so there's no crunch later on," LeBlanc said.

There have been 14 to 16 inmates housed outside the county in the past three weeks, she said.

Reed budgeted for enough overtime and travel expenses to cover housing 12 inmates outside of the county. She said Reed also agreed to maintain a population of 48 in the SEKRCC. The total budget for the jail is $964,000.

She said sometimes inmates have to be housed elsewhere to avoid conflicts -- sometimes with other inmates.

"I understand that some have to be out because of conflicts, but there are several that there are no conflicts," LeBlanc said. "I guess I would question why that person's out, rather than being in when you have room for six or seven. That would be six or seven in without you having to pay for them. We could save on the cost.

"It's not a conflict with a codefendant, so it has to be with the staff, and sometimes that's warranted because of the behaviors of that individual causes everyone else to have bad behavior, too," LeBlanc said.

LeBlanc said the jail population has consistently been 40 or 41 during the past two months.

Reed said during the "budget crunch," he agreed to keeping the SEKRCC population to 48. He said when he did his budget, he accounted for 15 inmates to be housed outside the county.

"Then I was told to try to get by with 12," Reed said. "So far we have, up until this point. However, it's always going to trend. Once summer hits, your crime is going to increase. If I'm holding 48 people -- and strong -- which I can, I don't want to, because when I have people coming in five or six at a time, which has been the case a time or two in the last couple of weeks, I have no place to put them. Therefore, I'm on a mad dash to get people in here on overtime to get them out of here."

County Attorney Terri Johnson asked Reed what population number he wants to maintain in the jail.

"I just want to be able to have a number we can agree upon, that I can, A, safely run the jail, B, take care of the inmates, and C, have enough room that if five or six people come in during the afternoon or night," Reed said.

He also said he prefers to keep four cells open for disciplinary purposes for people who are being processed and cannot be placed in the general population yet.

"And sometimes that's not enough," Reed said.

Johnson said there have been several occasions -- prior to the summer months -- when the population has been around 40 and 41. Reed said there has not been 16 inmates out until the past few weeks.

Reed and LeBlanc got into a discussion about the population numbers. LeBlanc said until the last three weeks, there has consistently been 12 inmates out and 38 or 50 in. Reed said during the months of January, February and March, the jail did not average 12 every day.

The population determines how much the county will spend on overtime and travel for jail staff transporting inmates and the cost of housing of inmates in other counties.

Johnson asked Reed to provide a realistic figure.

"You don't want to be in a position where they (commissioners) dictate to you," Johnson said. "They're really wanting to know what you think is a reasonable number."

"When we started last year, at exactly the same time -- realizing there was a deficit of $400,000 -- it was 41 in and 34 housed out," LeBlanc said. "We worked consistently for the next several months to address that issue, and we still continue to today, to watch. Yes, it's much better, but we also budgeted for 12 out all this time."

The discussion turned to the use of temporary sleeping arrangements for additional inmates and the number of females that can be housed at the SEKRCC.

Martin said a few years ago, the National Institute of Corrections stated temporary beds, known as "boats," should be used for "extreme emergencies." Reed said he uses boats only in "dire straight emergencies, and a day or two" in the E pod.

Martin also said the number of females being arrested has doubled since the jail was built in 1977. Reed said as of Monday, he has room for four additional females, but there have been times when he has housed more than 10 females by utilizing the boats.

LeBlanc went through the list of inmates and asked Reed to explain why each one is being housed outside the county. One is waiting to be bonded out, another is the county's inmate for only 18 months and a third was sent out for lock down because the county doesn't have the ability to lock down a female. Two inmates have conflicts, two are out because their court dates are not in the near future.

"The commissioners need to be aware if you're saying that you're over budget -- your overtime increases and your out-of-county increases and you're going over budget," LeBlanc said "And they're going over their budget willingly, so I don't know if there's any money to come from other departments like we did last year."

"How are we going over our budget?" Martin asked.

"Because you're going over the agreed amount," LeBlanc said.

"Who was the agreement between?" Martin asked.

Johnson said the agreement was made when the budget was set.

"That was this time last year when everyone was scrambling," Reed said.

Martin said the budgeted minimum population number should be set at 41, which would be any combination of men and women, and Reed agreed not to go below that number.

"All of us need to be aware, when we're housing out more than 12, the potential is that you're going to start ripping into your budget, because 12 was what was budgeted for," Johnson said.

She said last year, when the jail's budget was exceeded, it was a shock to everyone. At that time, Reed had not been in his position for many months.

"And the bail money's not there now," Third District Commission Harold Coleman said.

Second District Commissioner Barbara Albright said as of June 13, the jail was under budget, with 34 percent spent.

"And I want to keep it that way, by all means," Reed said.

"Being at 34 percent is definitely a good thing," Warren said. "But I think you could go over budget so quickly."

"We're trying to be aware of what's going on with the cases, trying to get journal entries done quickly," Johnson said. "I think we've done a really good job in the last year, getting the journal entries done quickly so Bobby can move people out. Because I think we all need to be aware of it.

There was also discussion on watching overtime. Reed said he and Miller have been taking more transports, and Martin said he has taken some, too.