Officials in Utah's 29 counties, weary after years of haggling over who should pay to house prisoners in their jails, now are worried they never will get money lawmakers promised them earlier this year.
Officials in the state's budget office sent a letter recently to Gary Deland, state corrections director, telling him to remove the $500,000 set aside for county jail costs. The money was to be used to offset the cost of housing state prisoners in county jails.County officials believe the money was promised to them in return for their support of a law passed last year that transferred responsibility for the state's district courts from the counties to the state.
The money, spread out among the state's 29 counties, was supposed to satisfy county officials temporarily while a legislative committee studied ways to solve the jail problem.
"Suddenly, we're finding ourselves possibly cut off from those funds for next year," said Clair Poulsen, sheriff of Duchesne County and president of the Utah Sheriff's Association.
Poulsen and officials from other counties met with the legislative interim appropriations committee Wednesday. Committee members told them to go to the governor's office to work out their problems.
Salt Lake County has spent years trying to solve its jail funding problem. Not only do county officials want the state to pay, they also want cities to pay for housing prisoners arrested for violating city laws.
County officials have sent bills to cities. All of the cities have refused to pay. The county has, at various times, threatened to keep tax revenue away from the cities until the bills are paid.
Meanwhile, the county's jail is crowded. Earlier this year, county commissioners instructed Sheriff N.D. Hayward not to admit any more prisoners from cities until the jail's population diminished.