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Loss Of Federal Inmates Costs Jail

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The U.S. Marshals Service’s decision to pull federal prisoners from the Sandoval County Detention Center over concerns about suicides has cost the county more than $1 million in lost revenue and additional expenses.

County Manager Phil Rios said the county spent about $500,000 on maintenance, infrastructure improvements and hiring to ensure the jail would comply with requirements to house the federal prisoners.

In addition, the loss of the roughly $67 per inmate, per day, it receives for housing the federal prisoners amounted to about $600,000 by the end of fiscal year 2012 on June 30.

The detention center’s budget for the last fiscal year was $8.6 million. Rios said money to cover the expenses and lost revenue has come from the county’s cash reserves.

The U.S. Marshals Service pulled all inmates being held on federal charges in March over concerns about three suicides that occurred at the Sandoval County jail last winter. At the time they were removed, 190 of the 375 inmates at the county lockup were federal prisoners.

Shortly after, county commissioners approved a $98,906 contract with Correctional Healthcare Companies Inc. to provide mental health services. In April, the commission approved additional changes to the policies and procedures at the jail, including mental health, suicide watch and reporting requirements.

At the time, Rios expected the Marshals Service to return the federal prisoners in June. The jail wasn’t ready then, due to maintenance issues related to installing equipment in some showers and specialized lighting, he said.

Rios said he has talked with representatives from the U.S. Marshals Service and expects the agency will return the federal prisoners on Aug. 1.

County commissioners are scheduled to vote tonight to increase the staffing hours under the mental health contract from 20 hours per week to 40 hours. The extra hours will increase the annual cost by $77,880 to $176,786. Detention Center Director Al Casamento said the detention center will need the extended hours when the return of the federal inmates boosts the jail population.

Rios said money for the additional mental health staffing hours is built into the county budget for fiscal year 2013 that began July 1.

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