Carter County Sheriff Milton Anthony says he’s confident state legislators got the message Tuesday when Oklahoma sheriffs and county commissioners rallied at the state Capitol concerning the Department of Corrections’ recent action to move hundreds of state prisoners out of county jails.
DOC director Robert Patton ordered state inmates moved in an effort to reduce costs within the DOC’s $463 million budget. But Anthony says Patton’s wrong in thinking there is a cheaper way of housing the overflow of state inmates. DOC pays sheriff’s just $27 per day per inmate. Detaining inmates elsewhere is more costly — $40 per day in community facilities and $35 per day in work centers.
And Anthony said the loss of housing state prisoners to his department alone is monumental — $50,000 to $60,000 per month.
“That’s money we depend on and, yes, it will hurt us,” Anthony said after he returned from the rally.
According to Ray McNair, Oklahoma Sheriff’s Association executive director, all county jails except 20 rely on state funding to keep afloat. Many even upgraded county jail sizes to house the inmates over time. McNair also pointed to a 2008 audit which reported findings that the cheapest way to house inmates waiting for state prisons was through county jails.
The bottom line, according to McNair, is what DOC action will mean for Oklahoma taxpayers.
He said the message of the rally was two pronged — find a way to properly assist the DOC with funding, and prove to the public that the alternative to housing inmates outside of county jail is not a better option.
“I’m confident the legislators understand the problem and are going to work with the sheriffs,” Anthony said.