County to increase inmate housing fees

Published 4:02 pm Thursday, September 15, 2011

Everything costs more these days—even, apparently, locking someone up.

Local municipal police departments will soon be paying the county more to house inmates at the Chilton County Jail.

The Chilton County Commission at its meeting Monday approved a new fee scale of $35 for the first day an inmate is housed at the jail and $30 for each additional day.

The changes would take effect Oct. 1, the beginning of the 2012 Fiscal Year.

Currently, agencies outside the Chilton County Sheriff’s Department are billed $38 for the first day and $20.25 for days thereafter.

All of the figures listed above include a $3 food provision, which covers three meals per inmate per day.

Clanton Police Chief Brian Stilwell said his department has paid an average of about $7,500 a month over the past 10 months to house inmates at the local jail.

The bill for August was $9, 823.25; under the new rates, that number would have been $13,560.

“We knew it was coming, and I don’t blame them,” Stilwell said of the increase. “When you look at this compared to the cost of building our own jail, it’s still a win-win for everybody.”

Stilwell said an average of six or seven Clanton inmates are being held at the county jail on any given day.

Maplesville’s bill for August was $477, as the town was charged for 17 days.

Jemison Police Shane Fulmer said he would like to see information detailing what costs associated with housing inmates have increased.

“We’ve been shown nothing that says why it costs more to house inmates,” Fulmer said. “It’s going to cost us several thousand dollars more a year.”

Sheriff Kevin Davis, who oversees the jail, said he and the commission began looking into inmate housing in order to come into compliance with a state law requiring county jails to have written contracts with outside agencies they house inmates for.

“The whole discussion came about with our last audit,” Davis said. “The going up on the fees kind of happened secondary.”

In the past, there has been nothing more in place than verbal agreements, or maybe just a mutual understanding of how the arrangement has worked in the past.

Davis presented the commission with a recommendation to change the rates to $35 for the first day and $25 for days thereafter, but after discussion the commission decided to increase the amount even more.

“Their concern was the cost of running the jail,” Davis said. “All the expense for us to house inmates has gone up.”

Davis said this is the first increase in inmate housing fees that the commission has passed in his five years as sheriff.

The Chilton County Jail has a capacity of 186 people and houses from 150-170 on an average day, Davis said. Of those inmates, he estimated 80 percent are typically being held on county or felony charges, meaning the sheriff’s department is receiving no compensation.

Agencies other than local municipal police departments—such as Alabama State Troopers or the state Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division law enforcement—also must pay the rates for housing inmates set by the commission.

Thorsby Police Chief Rodney Barnett, who like others in his position is working on a budget for FY 2012, said the change could affect his department.

“That’s one budget line item that’s always hard to figure,” Barnett said. “I would say we’re going to be affected, but it’s hard to say for sure.”