Tuesday, September 23, 2003

N.Ky. counties want a jail break

State asked to boost subsidy for prisoners

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

WILDER - Northern Kentucky's county governments want more money from Frankfort to house state prisoners in county jails.

Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties are paying more than $500,000 combined to annually subsidize county jails. That's money that could be better spent on other programs and services for law-abiding county residents, said Campbell County Jailer Greg Buckler.

"We have the responsibility to incarcerate people," Buckler said. "But the state needs to do more of paying its fair share. County governments need an increase in what the state is paying to house state prisoners."

Officials from all three counties gathered in Wilder last Thursday for a dinner to release their collective agenda for the 2004 General Assembly session that begins in January. Included is a plan to lobby for an increase in the $26.51 daily rate the state pays for prisoners after they are sentenced.

Also pushing for the increase will be the Kentucky Jailers Association, the statewide professional and advocacy organization that represents the interest of jailers in Frankfort.

Officials, including the jailers, say the problem lies with when the state takes financial responsibility for prisoners. Now, the state pays only after a convicted prisoner is sentenced. But while a case moves through the courts, counties have to pay for the prisoners.

Based on information provided by the counties, the average time between a prisoner's incarceration and sentencing is 148 days in Campbell County, 156 days in Kenton County and 241 days in Boone County. And it is not uncommon for a prisoner to be charged with murder to be in a county jail for two years or more - all paid by the county.

"Jails are killing us financially," Campbell County Judge-executive Steve Pendery said at this year's State of Northern Kentucky address.

If the state would pay from the date a prisoner enters jail, the counties would receive extra money: an additional $517,502 for Boone, $557,134 for Campbell and $781,621 for Kenton this year.

Buckler said the county governments plan to ask the state to pay the daily rate from the time prisoners are convicted until they are sentenced.

"That would take about six weeks off the average stay," he said.

But Kenton County Jailer Terry Carl said that with money tight in Frankfort, "this is a tough time to be seeking additional funding."

County jail subsidies this year will total $3.6 million for Kenton, $1.6 million for Campbell and $300,000 for Boone.


E-mail pcrowley@enquirer.com

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