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County to save in jail deal

BY CLARK CAHILL AND ANNA LOTHSON | MARCH 12, 2009 7:27 AM

All overflow inmates from Johnson County Jail will now be taken to Marshall County Jail — a move that will make it easier to track inmates and could save the county hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.

The 92-bed jail in Johnson County does not provide enough space for the number of inmates the jail receives, Johnson County Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek said on Wednesday. The jail averaged 130 inmates per day in January and 110 in February, he said.

“It just simplifies a lot of things,” Pulkrabek said. “Our staff spends a lot of time figuring out transportation and what inmate has to come back from what county on a daily basis.”

After Marshall County stopped housing inmates from Polk County, officials were left with 100 vacant beds. Officials decided Johnson County will be charged $45 a bed per day when there are fewer than 25 of Johnson County’s inmates in Marshalltown, and $42.50 when there are more.

The decision to move all overflow inmates to Marshall County will affect the revenue of many surrounding counties that held Johnson County’s overflow in the past, including Cedar, Jasper, Linn, Iowa, Jefferson, and Washington Counties.

Those counties charged anywhere from $45 a bed per day in Jasper to $60 in Linn — prices that cost Johnson County $895,455 in 2008, Pulkrabek said.

Johnson County Supervisor Pat Harney said sending the inmates to Marshalltown is the best financial decision.

There is a benefit in eliminating the number of trips the sheriff will have to take on a daily basis, saving time and money, he said.

If officials had had the new system last year, the county would have saved around $130,410 at a cost of $45 a bed per day and $172,913 at a cost of $42.50, Pulkrabek said.

Supervisor Rod Sullivan agreed the financial benefits made the final push in the sheriff’s decision.

“His staff had crunched the numbers and decided it was too good of a deal to pass up,” he said.
Pulkrabek said transportation costs will be about $4,000 more per year to drive 90 miles to Marshalltown, but the county will save on labor by making only one trip to transport inmates per day.

One issue with the new system is inmates will be farther from family and attorneys, though the county will only send inmates sentenced with a long-term stays to Marshalltown, while inmates with short-term sentences will stay in Johnson County, Pulkrabek said.

For now, the supervisors all agreed it was the best cost-saving solution.

“It just made sense to try this and see how it goes,” Pulkrabek said. “With the lower rates and having everyone in the same place, the positives outweigh the negatives.”


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