Sheriff: We’re overcrowded
When built in 1992, the county jail was designed to house 122 people. As of last Thursday, jail records showed 228 were listed as inmates.
In the rehabbed building behind the county jail, another 40 are housed, and the jail gym is outfitted to house minimum security inmates, Smith said.
And it’s still not enough room, he said.
Smith said the problem is the state’s inmate recidivism rate is “astronomical” and that there is “no truth in sentencing.” He cited a recent situation where an inmate — sentenced to 10 years in prison for assault and possession of a controlled substance — served one year and seven months before being paroled.
The illustration is nothing new, or nothing that will be changed in the immediate future, Smith said.
“I had another guy who had an 80-year sentence and served three years and five months before he was let go,” he said. “These are nothing. These people that have been released are not prepared to go to work in society, and they are out committing new crimes. Then they are back in the county jail waiting on a new trial.”
Those extra inmates put a tremendous burden on county governments, especially in light of budget cuts to judicial and court systems, district attorney, judge and clerk offices, Smith said.
“We can’t get caught up now,” Smith said. “What it means is that the state keeps turning them loose, then they break into your house, and we catch them. Then they sit in the county jail, and they are on bond for a year before they go to trial as it is.
“Now, they are going to be out on bond committing new crimes for two years before they go to trial.”
Smith said — in an effort to keep inmates off the streets — those that need to be in the penitentiary are now in the county jail, and the money the state sends to house these inmates can’t be used here in the county.
“They won’t give it to us,” he said. “They pay us $1.75 a day to house an inmate. They pay nothing towards the clothing and nothing towards the medical. The county taxpayers pay every penny of that.”
Smith said state troopers bring inmates to the county jail, as does very police office and sheriff’s deputy, “and everyone they arrest that gets charged for a misdemeanor in municipal court to the county jail.”
“But 99.9 percent of the people in the county jails are in there on state offenses,” he said. “Taxpayers have to suffer the burden and pay the same tax twice to hold the same county inmate. They pay the state, because of the state taxes, and now the county is getting the burden.
“We are all going to hit a brick wall,” he said of the future. “You can only accommodate so many inmates before you have to build a new jail.”