The Pryor Times

Local News

July 10, 2014

No escape from jail crisis

Pryor Times — It’s bread and water at the Mayes County Jail.

The jail is entering the fiscal year in the midst of what Sheriff Mike Reed is calling a budget crisis.

The jail’s lack of funds stems back to two main causes; the jail being funded from a non-recurring account, and the removal of all Department of Corrections inmates.

Reed said the jail made $507,384 last year from housing DOC inmates, money that will no longer be a source of income as the DOC has opted to pull inmates from county jails state-wide as part of a money-saving plan.

The jail averages 150 inmates on any given day. These inmates are divided into four pods, A-D. A-pod, according to Jail Administrator Kyle Murry, is home to inmates in protective custody, usually sexual offenders. B-pod is typically composed of inmates on lockdown for disciplinary problems and C-Pod houses female inmates. The largest, general population, is housed in the D-Pod.

That’s 150 mouths to feed, bodies to bathe and tempers to control.

Reed said the food and bread portion of the budget totaled $165,000 last year, which averages out to about 82 cents per meal and a whopping total of 164,250 meals per year. The meal plan, Murry said, is nothing glamorous, but it’s not mush either. The jail meets the standards set by the state regarding amounts of fruit, vegetables and proteins that must be provided.

Janitorial supplies, like dish and laundry soap, total $75,000 per year while inmate supplies average between $13,000 to $16,000. Paper supplies,toilet paper and paper towels, rings in at $5,000. Hospital visits, medication and ambulance services rack up between $60,000 and $100,000. Reed said he hired a jail doctor to save money, as he can visit once a week and write prescriptions, sparing the cost of transporting inmates to and from the jail. The jail’s doctor adds another $15,000 in expenses. The jail’s utility bills alone, Reed said, are $80,000 per year.

“The very basic amenities, food and utilities, total at a quarter-of-a-million dollars,” said Reed.

The daily life of an inmate will depend largely on behavior and whether they have been sentenced. Inmates who have not been sentenced, Murry said, cannot leave their pod. Some female inmates are let out of their pods to work in the kitchen and laundry. Murry said there used to be male inmates working in the kitchen, but they were caught stealing sugar to make hooch.

On average, inmates are allowed out of their cells for three hours per day, unless they are on lock down. That three hours includes time to shower. When an inmate is on lockdown, typically for bad behavior, they are allowed out Monday, Wednesday and Friday for 15-minute showers.

Reed and Murry agree the jail is desperately understaffed, with only 20 on the payroll. These employees average between $11 and $12.50 per hour. Reed crunched the numbers and said it averages to each employee watching 40-50 inmates, a big enough job for three deputies.

“Our pay isn’t competitive. We bring them in, train them and they leave for better money,” said Reed. “We’re cutting our own throats because we don’t have the money to keep them. The highest liability for a lawsuit in any county is the jail and we’re doing ourselves a disservice by perpetually having new people.”

Salaries and benefits cost about $600,000 per year and the employees are not getting raises. In fact, Reed said, the sheriff’s office has lost employees they don’t have the money to replace.

“Employees are having to pull double shifts, I’m taking shifts, there’s just not enough manpower to go around,” said Reed.

“It costs just over $1.1 million to pay just the basic every day bills for the jail. The current eighth-cent sales tax brought in $492,000 last year,” said Reed. “The proposed request for an additional eighth-cent sales tax is just to maintain jail operations. We’re not asking for improvements or more personnel or raises. We just want to pay the bills.”

Reed said it’s a bare-bones, bare-minimum operation.

“We can’t go without lights and we can’t go without air conditioning. They have to have running water and they have to be fed. We can’t cut staffing. There’s literally no corners to cut, no place to save money.”

With a state law requiring the county to have a jail and a state statute outlining how it is to be funded, Reed said he doesn’t see any other options.

Mayes County Commissioners recently decided to give voters the chance of increasing the county sales tax by an eighth-cent in order to generate revenue to fund the jail. The question will appear on the August ballot.

 

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