Darren Doyle, story:
According to Edmonson County Judge Executive Wil Cannon, the county is facing a cost increase from $25 to $35 for daily inmates at the Hart County Jail, which is a hefty 40% increase for the same facility and services.
Currently, the county does not have a local jail and must contract jail services to another county. Edmonson County currently pays $25 per day, per inmate to the Hart County Jail to house county prisoners.
The county currently has 19 inmates lodged at Hart County Jail for a total cost of $475 per day. If the increase were to be put in effect today, Edmonson County would see an additional $190 cost per day, which is an additional $5700 per month, something that Judge Cannon says is impossible for the county to fund.
"We'll simply have to rebid the contract," he said. "There's just no way the county can afford that right now, so it's a difficult situation."
Cannon said the current contract price has been in effect for several years and that there has been no need to renegotiate.
"We've had a good price at $25 per day for a while and that compared really well to our bordering counties. Obviously that's going up and we'll have to do something different."
Several residents have argued that a better solution would be to simply build a jail within the county and reap the financial benefits of keeping the funds at home; however, Cannon said that's a misconception.
"Some think we can just build a new jail here and all the problems will be solved, but that's really not an option either. We'd have to build a facility that would comfortably hold a minimum of 200 inmates which would cost hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars. We only have a yearly average of around 15-20 inmates per day, so we'd still be trying to pay for a facility that would actually cost more than the $25 or $35 per day that it costs now. There are only four jails in the state of Kentucky that are turning a profit and that's only because they're housing federal prisoners."
Hart County Jailer Israel Bergenson said the jail is currently losing money on the Edmonson County contract and they have no choice but to raise the price.
"This contract was first made ten years ago," he said. "The cost of living and everything else over ten years is forcing us to increase the price. We're actually losing money on this contract right now. It's costing us at least $32 per day per inmate, so even with an increase to $35 per day we'll only be making a couple of dollars."
Jailer Bergenson said the contract should've been renegotiated long ago but it was something that he said simply fell through the cracks.
"Jails all over the state are struggling just to operate," he said. "We can't operate at this current price."
Cannon said that the county will have until the end of the fiscal year to make a final decision, which is June 30th, 2017.
"We're reaching out to other local jails to rebid the contract," said Cannon. "It could be a long process to work out details in a new contract, but the bottom line is we have to have a place to house inmates and we can't provide that here in Edmonson County right now."
Cannon also said that the slow process of the court and legal system doesn't help matters and that other options to cut down on unnecessary jail time have been extensively researched.
"We're doing more home incarceration now than ever for non-violent criminals, but those that participate in the program have to pay the fees associated with that. If they can't or don't pay the fees, we're stuck with the bill, so there's really no help there and we just can't start turning a bunch of inmates loose because of a high cost."
Judge Cannon said that another jail option is being sought now and a solution will be found as soon as possible. All bordering counties currently have jails which include Butler, Grayson, Hart, Barren, and Warren.