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2017-01-25 / Front Page

Jail, Law Enforcement, Costs County Millions in Unfunded Mandates

By Rosie Cunningham

DELHI - This cost to run the jail is no surprise to Delaware County officials, as the jail has to care, feed and clothe the inmates it houses.

According to Delaware County Clerk of the Board Christa Schafer, the Delaware County Board of Supervisors has budged $4,990,461 for jail operating costs, up from 2016, when expenses totaled $4,478,718.

“We are required to maintain a jail, (and that) is an unfunded mandate,” said Masonville Supervisor Michael Spaccaforno. “The more people that go to jail, the cost increases. We pay for inmates such as drug offenders, violent criminals and sex offenders to be comfortable. We provide three square meals, meet their medical needs and additional services.”

This funding does not include the more than $2 million it costs the county each year to provide public defense to those who fall within a certain poverty line.

According to Delaware County Undersheriff Craig Du- Mond, it’s not just the county jail which feels the pain of state mandates.

“It has a detrimental effect on the sheriff’s operating budget which comes from the county tax levy,” he said.

DuMond said each year, it costs the Delaware County Sheriff’s Department approximately $1.5 million in unfunded mandates ($1.1 million unfunded mandates imposed at the county jail each year and on the law enforcement side approximately $350,000 of unfunded mandates are imposed by the state).

“We have many regulations associated with the SAFE Act,” he said. “In the jail, we have a mandatory minimum of staff that we must have to cover inmates at all times.”

Other mandates include regulations on the amount of supervising staff on duty, medical needs of the inmates and additional care costs of the inmates, providing a state sex offender program, providing DNA samples for criminal offenders at no cost and up-to-date digital data services which includes submitting data documentation to track law enforcement activity.

“Granted, that last one is probably the best method of doing it, but it’s also the most costly,” said DuMond.

DuMond said the Delaware County Jail can house up to 124 and according to the commissioners court, whether there are 24 inmates or 124, the same amount of employees must be present at all times.

“We have 50 full-time correctional officers and 20 part-time,” he said. “In my opinion, we do not need that many, but we are required to have and pay that many.”

On average, the jail houses approximately 70-80 inmates, said DuMond.

“We try to make revenue by boarding inmates from other counties when there is overflow,” he said. “Last year, we made about $327,000 doing this and that revenue goes into the county board’s general fund.”

DuMond said unfunded mandates are frustrating.

“If citizens knew how much money is being wasted on these unfunded mandates, they would be very upset,” he said. “We are told to fund specific programs or provide services and then meanwhile, we look like the bad guy at the local level, because we can’t run deficits - we can’t afford to.”

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