Perks of federal inmates going to your jail

CRITTENDEN COUNTY, KY – Crittenden County Jailer Robert Kirk is turning the tide on spending at the community’s 172-bed facility.

For October 2017, the jail took in more revenue than it spent. Kirk said he thinks it’s the only time in the jail’s history.

It mostly stems from a marketing campaign. Kirk wanted to extend their federal inmate reach beyond western Kentucky into East Tennessee. The additional inmates matter. Here’s why: inmates from surrounding counties earn the jail $32 per day, a state inmate earns the jail $31.34, but a federal inmate will earn $42.

Here’s the potential impact of taking on a large number of federal inmates: Right now, the jail has 42. If those 42 inmates were at the jail for a full 31 days, it would earn the jail $54,684.

His strategies also include watching every expense, including bulk orders and revisiting contracts with the United States Marshals Office. He negotiated the $42 rate, up from $35.

Despite coming up nearly $5,000 in the black, it will be a while before the jail is self-sufficient. Twice a year, the Crittenden County Fiscal Court has to pay the mortgage on the jail.

Staying in the green monthly, however, means fewer dollars from the county government will go to subsidizing the jail. “It’s not a profit business, but it can be run to where the cost is minimal,” Kirk said.

The jail, today, is more than 100 percent full. Kirk and his staff are working to keep it that way. “When they have extra inmates and they’re trying to place them, we along with other regional jails in Kentucky, we work toward getting those inmates,” he said.

In Crittenden County, 39 beds are reserved for state inmates who work. The other 133 beds can be federal, state, or county inmates.

Crittenden County Jailer Robert Kirk

If an inmate is from Crittenden County, no one but the county absorbs the cost. He said he thinks finding ways to cut spending will help the community “Everything that the county has to remove from general fund dollars is something they’re not about to do for the senior citizens, for county roads, for special projects the magistrates want to do,” Kirk said.

We reached out to other surrounding jails to see how they compare. In Graves County, they’re coming up over budget by hundreds of thousands of dollars. The reason, according to the jail’s chief deputy, is a lack of space for federal inmates. Crittenden County has more than double the beds Graves County has.

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