|Rising inmate count an issue
Loudon County Sheriff’s Office will ask Loudon County Commission for roughly $130,000 in new money at the March meeting to help deal with a rising county jail inmate population.
Sheriff Tim Guider also hopes to transfer $52,850 from the sheriff’s office budget to the jail budget. “About a year ago we were running 130-135 or so,” Guider said. “We’re running now about 30 more.
“I don’t know the answer to that,” he added. “Unless it’s still the severity of the opioid thing where more little crimes are committed — the thefts, the fraudulent uses of credit cards, the fraud in general, the petty thefts, a lot of Walmart shoplifting and the DUIs.”
Officers are asked to consider the severity of the crime before bringing them in, but LCSO Chief Deputy Jimmy Davis said “some just need to be in jail.”
Average daily inmate jail population is 168, Davis said. On Friday, the population was 157.
“Our general rule what we try to do is if we’re over 150 inmates, we don’t want any less than four corrections staff working,” Davis said. “So like the sheriff said, you’ve got one designated for your booking and intake and one designated for your control room. Used to when our population went down years ago, your booking officer if there’s not someone in the back door right then, they could generally go around and help with walk-throughs and serve medication or food orders.
“Now we have to use what has housing,” he added. “So those two holding cells in the back, they don’t have restrooms in them, so somebody has to be back there to monitor them. We have people in the hallway, so we have to let them out to use the bathroom and just overall to take care of them so somebody has to be back there.”
The jail is certified to hold 91 inmates. The county regained certification in September after Tennessee Corrections Institute took away the designation in June 2016 largely because of overcrowding.
Guider said there are no concerns of losing certification again because the county is making progress on a jail expansion. Jail bids are expected to open March 8 at the county office building.
“I’m scared to death because this is the slow season, and so normally history shows in the winter months our numbers are down,” Jake Keener, LCSO jail administrator, said. “The fact that they’ve been consistently breaking records the entire time, I fear the summer. Of course, September 2019 we’re supposed to walk into the new facility, the fear is that’s going to be full the day we walk in. Just the numbers are crazy.”
About $10,000 of the requested funding increase is for medical, $77,000 is for drugs and medical supplies and about $30,000 is for food service for the extra inmates. About $35,000 will be for deputy overtime, which Keener said is largely a response to the high inmate count.
Commission during its February workshop focused on the cost in medical-related expenditures. Davis focused on two patients as an example.
“In the calendar year from January to December of 2017, we spent $42,041.97 on his medication,” Davis said. “So you take half of that from July to the end of the year it’s roughly around $21,000. We had another inmate that was here … that was sentenced to a rehab, walked off from rehab, we charged him with escape and his sentence was five months in the county jail. He was $20,204 and that was from July to November ‘17.”
Expenditures for drugs and medical supplies on a given year is just “your best educated guess,” Davis said, noting the number fluctuates.
Guider said LCSO is also on the hook for $102,949 a year for Southern Health Partners, which provides customized health care to city and county detention centers across 13 states. The jail has a nurse on staff 40 hours a week.
“They charge a certain amount of the annual fee based on the number of inmates,” Guider said. “Then, like for now, we had to re-up it in November to 140 inmates, which was 120 before that. Right now, see, that’s based on 140 inmates, so anything based on over 140 is a per diam per day per inmate.”
At the February workshop, Commissioner Kelly Littleton-Brewster presented a resolution supporting legislation establishing Medicaid and TennCare rates as the maximum chargeable amount for medical services provided to inmates in jails and prisons.
“So if an inmate has those benefits while they’re an inmate that ... we could still charge their Medicare and Medicaid but it was capped,” Davis said. “Anything above that would be (the) responsibility falls back on the county. Like the sheriff said, there’s got to be some legislation out there because usually if an individual comes in and they’re under any type of state or federal assistance — food stamp, whatever it could be, TennCare, anything like that — once they become an inmate those benefits ceased, they’re stopped.”
“It shouldn’t fall back on us,” Guider added. “If they’re getting it anyway, why don’t they continue to get it?”