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The Casey County Detention Center is hoping to replace prisoners who were transferred to another facility on Thursday and Friday.
The 80-bed Russell County Detention Center opened on Thursday and began transferring 68 inmates who had been housed in the Casey jail, according to Casey County Jailer Tommy Miller.
The Casey jail had been housing Russell County’s inmates since last fall when the state closed the old Russell County Jail, Miller said.
And, according to Casey County Treasurer Debbie Vaughn, Russell County Fiscal Court has paid $158,833 since October to house inmates in the Casey jail.
However, the loss of these funds doesn’t seem to have jail and county officials worried.
“It’ll create a little hardship for a while but it’s nothing we can’t overcome,” Miller said, adding that not all the money Russell County paid was profit.
Casey County Judge/Executive Ronald Wright said that the loss of these inmates shouldn’t affect the jail’s status as being one of a handful in the state that actually makes money.
“We’re going to lose some money but it should only take us about two to three months to overcome it,” Wright said.
Wright said that he and Miller — along with Casey County Fiscal Court magistrates — are contacting other counties without jails, seeking their inmates.
“We’re also contacting other jails because some are overcrowded,” Wright said.
While Miller and Wright believe that the temporary loss of income from these inmates can be overcome, they are more concerned about the long-term income and inmate forecast for the jail.
Miller said that he’s watching the outcome of a bill that’s currently making its way through the state legislature.
The Kentucky House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday that, if adopted by the Senate and signed by the governor, would overhaul the corrections system.
The House voted 97-2 to adopt the bill that aims to control a soaring prison population, save an estimated $422 million over the next decade, and focus on treating low-level drug offenders.
However, Miller said that not only will fewer inmates mean less income, but he fears it will also translate into more crime.
“It’s all about the state saving money but they’re being soft on crime — people won’t be safe in their homes,” Miller said, referring to drug offenders stealing to financially support their drug habit.
Miller said he got an e-mail from the state last week stating that between 4,000 and 5,000 inmates will be released from county jails in the coming months.
“They’re suggesting home incarceration and putting ankle bracelets on these people,” Miller said.
However, State Rep. Terry Mills, D-Lebanon, who represents Casey, Marion, Lincoln and part of Pulaski County, said the bill’s intent is to lessen Kentucky’s soaring prison population as well as saving the state money.
“From 2000 to 2007, Kentucky’s prison population increased 45 percent,” Mills said.
Mills said that the one of the bill’s main points centers on treatment for non-violent, low-level drug offenders.
A portion of the savings will be reinvested in drug treatment for offenders both in and out of jail, Mills said.
In addition, Mills said that the estimated savings to the state will be passed on to the local jails by paying more per day for housing an inmate, currently set at $32 per day.
And that’s important because roughly 70 percent of the Casey jail’s income is derived from housing state prisoners, Vaughn said.
Mills said that he believes treatment is a better option for keeping more drug offenders from becoming repeat offenders.
The bill has received universal support from a host of law enforcement agencies, including the Kentucky Jailers Association, Mills said.
But, KJA Executive Director Marshall Long said that the organization wasn’t enthusiastic about endorsing the bill.
“We endorsed the best of a bad bill — the county gets a hit, the state gets a hit — it’s probably the best we could do,” Long said.
One component of the bill that will save counties money deals with inmates who suffer from a catastrophic illness, such as cancer, Long said.
An amendment to the bill sets a rate that jails would have to pay hospitals to treat critically ill prisoners.
Currently, jails pay hospitals the Medicaid rate plus 18 percent, Long said.
If passed, jails will pay $1,000 and the remainder could come from a state catastrophic loss fund.
Still, Miller isn’t convinced that the bill is the best course of action for drug offenders.
“We’ll have to wait and see what happens,” Miller said.