The Norman Transcript

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February 7, 2013

Inmate housing costs currently higher than state reimbursements

NORMAN — With the new calendar year under way, Cleveland County’s elected leadership is looking at cost-efficient means of housing prisoners.

Commissioners also will consider adding prayer to the commission agenda as well as other procedural changes, including moving the Board of County Commissioners meeting to Monday afternoons. Also under consideration is an automated agenda system that would make county government more transparent and accessible online.

Cleveland County Sheriff Joe Lester said Oklahoma Department of Corrections reimbursments are about half of what it costs to house prisoners in the F. DeWayne Beggs Detention Center. As of Monday morning, 389 prisoners were being housed in the county jail facility. Of those, 88 are DOC prisoners, with 71 already processed with judgment and sentencing.

Those 71 prisoners are awaiting transport to a DOC facility as soon as the space is available. In the meantime, the state must reimburse the county for their expenses. That rate is set by statute at $27, Lester told Cleveland County Commissioners at Monday’s meeting.

Estimates from two years ago indicate that housing prisoners costs Cleveland County $54 per day, Lester said.

Currently, cities throughout Cleveland County pay $45 per day to house their prisoners at F. DeWayne Beggs.

“We’ll refigure the fee,” Lester said. “Whatever that cost is will be the new fee.”

Commissioner Rusty Sullivan, District 3, said the cost is lower in other counties. He asked if Cleveland County could save money by transferring those prisoners to other counties that would bill the state directly.

“I’m just trying to figure out some way to help save money,” Sullivan said.

Lester said he would not be comfortable with transferring prisoners to other counties. He questioned whether Cleveland County could be held liable if a prisoner sued because of poor care in another county’s facility.

Assistant District Attorney Jim Robertson said he would research the matter but did not think the county would be liable if another county took custody.

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