K8 Closer Look: Jail Funding

July 13, 2007 - Posted at 5:17 p.m. CDT

NEWPORT-On Wednesday, Jackson County Sheriff David Lucas showed K8 News a deteriorating jail which is now facing action by the state.

"I've got exposed wiring back there. I've got plumbing problems. Ventilation is poor. They just wrote me up on the whole gamete," said Lucas.

While the state inspection ended on a broken note, the sheriff says correcting the problems is a big task.

"You take the smaller counties like Jackson County that doesn't have a large tax base. We have no recourse. There is nowhere we can go for help," said Lucas.

He says it's frustrating especially when he wants to turn things around.

"I've talked to everybody I can think of, all the way up. I keep getting the same answer. It's a county problem. It's a county problem," said Lucas.

Jail funding is not just something that affects the smaller counties.  In Craighead County they say their operating costs are astronomical, and yet there is still no assistance from state or federal money.

"Our maintenance is very high. The jail budget is very high. It costs a lot of money," said Sheriff Jack McCann.

That money is hard to come by, due to the unpopularity of inmates to taxpayers.

"They don't want to spend a million or two million dollars of their tax money on inmates. They want roads paved and other infrastructure. The last place they want that to go is towards inmates and the jail," said McCann.

So many smaller counties feel like the state should help out.

"The way I look at it, it's an epidemic. The state needs to step in and start helping some of these counties. It's really aggravating when you just don't get any help at all. There is nothing we can do about it," said Lucas.

He says the state should use some of its surplus money.

"That money come from the taxpayers. What a better way to give the money back to the taxpayers than by helping those counties," said Lucas.

And one way or another, they are going to have to get the help somewhere.

"With all the federal guidelines and state guidelines now, you've got to spend that money. You've got to find it somewhere. It's got to be there," said McCann.

Both jails say not only is the age of the facilities an issue, but inmates are notorious for tearing things up, only adding to expenses that continue to climb.

Jail funding has been a county issue for years, and while many would like to see federal and state funding, we're told it is typically low on the list of priorities for legislators.

*Story ideas or comments?  Email Will at wcarter@kait8.com.