Cities Must Pay More Per Prisoner

NOVEMBER 13, 2006 -- POSTED AT 10:30 P.M. CST

CRAIGHEAD COUNTY, AR -- The Craighead County Quorum Court voted to raise the rate of housing city prisoners in the county jail by 50 percent. The cost will come directly from city police departments in Craighead County.

It was a unanimous vote. All 12 members on the Craighead County Quorum Court voted yes to increase the jail fees for the county detention center, an increase County Judge Dale HHHHHHaas says was long overdue.

"In 1990 where it was costing 530 thousand dollars to run the county jail, there was basically that gentlemen's agreement of 30 dollars a day. Well today it is costing us 4 million dollars to run that same county jail," says Judge Haas.

The increase will raise the fee for an in-county inmate from 30 dollars to 45, and for out of county inmates, from 36 dollars to 51 dollars per day. It's a 50 percent increase, one the county hasn't made in over 16 years.

"The cities receive fines for those people going to jail and the county has been carrying the bulk of the weight of that prisoner. It's from the cost of food, the cost of housing, the cost of medical expenses that we have to provide," says Judge Haas.

There was much opposition against the increase from different cities within the county, including the City of Jonesboro. Judge Haas says he offered several alternate options to the cities to prevent the increase.

"I even said hey we'll lease you the old county jail and you can take care of your own misdemeanor prisoners. Well, naturally they don't want to do that either and I don't want to put an unfair burden on them but it cost a lot of money today to keep with the federal and state mandates on running a jail facility," says Judge Haas.

Judge Haas says the quorum court had no other choice at this point but to pass the increase. The jail serves 10 different municipalities within the county and he says the burden of the jail costs must be shared.

"There's not a quorum court member here or myself that wants to raise their costs, but there's not a quorum court member here or myself or the sheriff that doesn't see the necessity of it. We had to do something," adds Judge Haas.

Although this increase caused controversy prior to the meeting Monday night, there weren't any local police chiefs there to voice opposition before the vote.  The increase passed as an emergency ordinance and will go into effect January 1st of 2007.