First in a series.
A 2012 study of inmate costs among 14 county jails in Arkansas, which includes Hempstead County, shows that state inmate jail time in county facilities costs those counties an average of $51.34 per day, or about twice the $28 per day which the state reimburses to counties for state inmates.
The 2013 Association of Arkansas Counties report of the 2012 study notes that the $28 per day state reimbursement was instituted in 2001, and has yet to be changed. The report also points out that the $51.34 per day average among the 14 county jails in the study is consistent with similar costs statewide.
“The Arkansas State Legislature in recent years has appropriated about $9.5 million per year for County Jail Reimbursement,” the report states. “This amount has historically been insufficient by several million dollars which necessitates a supplemental appropriation by the legislature when they convene in order to catch up and fulfill their duty in paying counties for housing state prisoners.”
The report points out that the problem has been created by a consistent lack of inmate beds in the Arkansas Department of Corrections system.
“Due to insufficient bed space for state prisoners, the county jails of Arkansas are often used to house state prisoners until space becomes available in state prison facilities,” the report notes. “The State of Arkansas assumes the cost of housing these inmates when they have been convicted by the Arkansas court system.”
However, the report concedes that the transition of inmates from county to state status, while beginning on the date of sentencing, actually requires about 21 days in processing because a circuit court judgment and commitment order are required to be transmitted to ADC within that period.
“If the proper paperwork is not remitted to the applicable state agency within the first twenty-one days after sentencing the reimbursement is started from the day that the paperwork is received by the agency,” the report states.
That means county jails can be left with an unreimbursed expense during the interim, as well as picking up the tab on medical costs for a state inmate.
“Although the State of Arkansas pays county government a daily per diem for housing state inmates from the date of sentencing, if the proper paperwork is filed in a timely manner, they do not take on the liability of medical costs of a state prisoner until day 31,” the report states.
Consequently, in the case of a county such as Hempstead County, which has a 100 bed jail capacity and housed state inmates for 2,751 inmate days of a total of 20,414 inmate days in 2012, but received zero state reimbursement for medical expenses, state inmate medical costs of $12,167.46 are included in the total of $90,263.10 for inmates in 2012 which the county had to pay.
According to the report, Hempstead County received a 13.48 percent state inmate reimbursement allocation of $293,979.64 on total facility costs for 2012 of $2,181,497.77. The average cost per day of a state inmate in Hempstead County was $106.86.
Page 2 of 2 - That cost is reduced to $89.20 per day when new construction costs for the Hempstead County Detention Center are removed from the totals.
At best, that leaves Hempstead County Sheriff James Singleton with a $61.20 per day deficit on state inmates and at worst a $78.86 per day deficit, based upon a state rate of $28 per day.
Among the 14 county jails involved in the 2012 study, four have bed capacities between 100-125 beds, including Hempstead County (100), Dallas County (125), St. Francis County (105), and Independence County (119). The state inmate cost per day in each of those facilities is between the low of $19.71 in St. Frances County and the high in Hempstead County of $106.86.
Dallas County reported a cost of $37.82 per day and Independence County a cost of $27.30 per day.
Among the four jails, Dallas County has the highest state inmate days at 9,490; Independence County at 7,132; Hempstead County at 2,751; and St. Francis County at 1,095.
Independence County has the highest total inmate days at 150,818, with Dallas County second at 36,500; St. Francis County is third at 31,185; and, Hempstead County is at 20,414.
Consequently, Dallas County has the highest percentage of inmate days relative to total at 26 percent; Independence County the second-highest at 21 percent; Hempstead County third-highest at 13.48 percent; and St. Francis County the lowest at 3.51 percent.
Next: Keeping costs down