County jail takes steps to reduce deficitCounty officials are implementing a number of changes to reduce deficit spending at the Stutsman County Correctional Center. The county-operated jail was facing nearly $250,000 in red ink in its 2012 operations before the changes.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
County officials are implementing a number of changes to reduce deficit spending at the Stutsman County Correctional Center.
The county-operated jail was facing nearly $250,000 in red ink in its 2012 operations before the changes.
“Now is a good time to see if we can do this more efficiently,” said Casey Bradley, chief operating officer of the county. “We need to see if we can do things differently.”
One money-saving move went into place in the jail’s kitchen on March 1, according to Tracey Trapp, correctional center administrator.
Previously the county had employed three cooks and purchased its own supplies for meals. This task has now been contracted to CBM Food Service of Sioux Falls, S.D. The company hired the county’s kitchen staff reducing salary expenses and now handles the food service. That reduced the per meal cost from about $4.51 per inmate per day to about $2.39, according to Bradley.
“The food service thing is huge,” he said. “If the population in the jail stays the same we could see a $141,000 cost savings.”
Another change in the works is contracting the management of the prison commissary to a private company. The commissary allows inmates to purchase candy and other small items for personal use in the facility. It is currently handled by correctional officers but by contracting the service the workload could be reduced.
“Turnkey Corrections handles this as a free service,” Bradley said. “It reduces the money items the staff has to handle.”
Turnkey Corrections is headquartered in Hudson, Wis., and specializes in services for inmate facilities.
Each prisoner would get a debit type card to use to make purchases. Money could be deposited to the card by family or added for jobs they perform for the jail. Exact dates of implementation aren’t known but the agreements are in place for the service.
A second service Turnkey Corrections offers is being considered.
“Video visitation is possible in the future,” Trapp said. “It’s more convenient for the public and takes some work load off the staff.”
Family and friends with computers could connect to the prisoner through Turnkey Corrections for a video chat with the prisoner. Turnkey Corrections charges for this service with part of the revenue paid to the county. This could be added in the fall.
Because the visitor isn’t in the correctional center searches aren’t required which reduces staff costs. It also benefits prisoners with family outside the area.
The county is also in the process of raising rates for prisoners it houses for other counties and the federal government.
The county currently houses 52 federal inmates at a rate of $60 per day. It is in the process of raising the rate to $65. Currently five inmates from surrounding counties are housed at the jail at a rate of $55 per day, which is being raised to $60 this month.
But the biggest changes might be still to come. A staffing and operations analysis was authorized by the Stutsman County Commission at its March meeting.
“We need to come up with minimum staffing levels,” Bradley said. “We need to look if the federal inmates are worth the extra costs.”
The jail capacity is about 96 inmates depending on the mix of male and female inmates and other factors. Its total population is normally about 80 prisoners, including the 52 federal inmates, but Trapp said people serving their sentences on weekends often fill the facility to capacity.
This compares to the last half of 2011 and the first two months of 2012 when only 25 federal prisoners were housed.
Trapp said the county has no guarantee on the numbers of federal prisoners it will house and it can vary from month to month.
“We need to look at to see if the federal inmates are worth the extra cost,” Bradley said.
The Stutsman County Correctional Center employs a staff of about 30 people including correctional officers, administrative staff and maintenance.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org