FARMINGTON Providing housing for inmates from other jurisdictions can sometimes be a tough pill for county sheriffs to swallow.
Often, those other entities, such as the Utah Department of Corrections and federal agencies, pay less than what it costs a sheriff's office to house inmates every day.
But a new agreement between the U.S. Marshal's Service and the Davis County Sheriff's Office will help take the sting out of the county jail's budget this year.
Keith Major, business manager for the Davis sheriff's office, announced recently that the U.S. Marshal's Service will now pay $70 a day to house its inmates in the Davis County Jail, up from $49.76.
That's significantly more than the state of Utah pays to house its overflowing inmates from the Utah State Prison in Draper: $45 per day, which is just 70 percent of what it costs to house an inmate in the prison.
The state secures a contract with county jails to house those inmates locally. Currently, there are 100 contracted inmates in the Davis County Jail.
The state pays even less for offenders who have committed felonies and are sentenced by a judge to serve in the county jail: $27.30 per day, or 50 percent of what it costs to house an inmate at the prison.
It's those 180 inmates who seem to be costing the county money, Major said, because the county has no choice but to accept them and their lower reimbursement rates.
Sometimes, Major says, the state runs out of money for reimbursement inmates, and counties are left footing the bill for the rest of the year.
Major said the Utah Sheriffs Association often lobbies the state Legislature to change the law so the state can pay a higher rate, but it rarely has success.
That's because if the state suddenly began paying the rate counties ask for, it likely wouldn't be able to foot the bill, said David Walsh, a policy and budget analyst for the Governor's Office of Planning and Budget.
"It's true, we're getting a bargain," Walsh said.
Sen. Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, co-chairman of the Executive Offices and Criminal Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, which has purview over the Corrections budget, says he doesn't think anyone is losing out.
If the reimbursement appropriation for the year runs out of money, the Legislature makes up for it with a supplemental appropriation, Waddoups says.
State law has been altered at times to provide different funding calculations for inmates who have to be held in locations away from the state's two prison complexes.
Walsh doesn't predict a change from the current calculation.
One reason is that Waddoups' committee deals with the seriously competitive budgets of corrections, Department of Public Safety, Utah's judges and elected officials.
The governor's budget recommended spending $30.6 million for state-contract inmates and $15.7 million for reimbursement inmates for fiscal year 2009, which begins July 1. But the Legislature's final appropriation was $24 million for jail contracts and $11.6 million for jail reimbursements.
"One of dilemmas you have is it's hard sometimes to project how many offenders are going to be sentenced to jail as condition of probation," Walsh said. "That's a judge's decision."
But Walsh said he thinks the state will be in good shape with its county jail appropriations during fiscal 2009.
Waddoups said it's easy for counties to make the case that the state is underpaying, and he said though sheriffs are under no obligation to take state-contract inmates, the rate the state pays usually helps offset jail costs.
"One perspective," Waddoups said, "is that we'd be better off building our own (facilities)."
Little possible expansion room exists at the state prison site, and the expansion options in Gunnison are dwindling.
In 2005, a feasibility study commissioned by the state found that moving the state prison from Draper didn't make financial sense, but that doesn't mean people have stopped thinking about it, Waddoups said."Everyone's looking at moving the prison at some point," he said.
Crime doesn't pay, but it costs a lot per day
What entities spend per inmate per day in Davis County Jail:
U.S. Marshal's Service: $70
State of Utah contract: $45
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