The Livingston County Jail closed last week and inmates housed at the local facility were transferred to the Daviess DeKalb County Regional Jail in Pattonsburg. Here's a look at some of the issues surrounding the jail's closure and questions raised, with answers provided by Livingston County Sheriff Steve Cox.
Q: Why is the sheriff's office closing?
A: The sheriff's office is not closing, only the jail portion of the office has closed. The deputies and sheriff will continue performing all our other duties in Livingston County including patrol and criminal investigations.
Q: What is a regional jail?
A: The national trend is to create regional county jails as the cost of each county having a jail is a significant financial burden to each county and a duplication of services in each county. With several counties participating in a regional jail they have the ability to consolidate and not duplicate services and all entities normally see an overall lower cost of jail expenses. This also permits the regional jail to take care of only detainees and free up law enforcement officers to better serve the citizens and do law enforcement work instead of guarding and caring for prisoners.
Q: Why did the jail close?
A: Inadequate and falling county revenues coupled with increasing expenses and needs in all areas of Livingston County government is the short explanation. Each county office has needs and statutory requirements to uphold. Just as the cost of living continues to rise for families it also continues to rise in all areas of county government and services. The point is even with the law enforcement sales tax, the county has not had adequate revenues to address all the needs of a building which is best described as a "Money Pit". Roughly $15,000 to over $25,000 per year had been spent on jail maintenance and repairs each year since at least 2001. There are a variety of issues with the jail with the most critical issue being our plumbing and plumbing fixtures. When the facility was being built in the 1970's, plans called for a full basement but after being dug it was backfilled with sand to save costs. There is not a basement or work space for repairs to plumbing. The cast iron lines were laid and covered in cement and now all of this needs to be removed and replaced. The county does not have the money or ability to budget to pay for such an extremely expensive project in additional to the normal operating budget for the jail.
Q: Was closing the jail the right thing to do?
A: Yes, we are basically over a barrel with the current needs of the entire facility. This decision permits us to further evaluate the needs of the community after closing the local jail. If the county, citizens, and courts decide it is needed to have our local jail facility repaired and reopened then we can address those costs and needs with the citizens at that time. The County Commission, Sheriff, and County Clerk did not feel it was in the best interest of our citizens or county government in asking for a bond or tax issue prior to attempting to live within means with our current budget/revenues. Either way the jail needed to be closed at this time.
Q: Will it cost more by holding our inmates in Pattonsburg, Missouri?
A: This entirely depends on the average daily population (ADP) of Livingston County inmates we hold. If the ADP sky rockets then the costs will show an increase. However the County Commission, County Clerk, and Sheriff have spent significant hours reviewing and estimating the costs, budgets, revenues, expenses, and other needs. We have taken many things into account and have a very agreeable contract offered by/with the Daviess-DeKalb County Regional Jail (DDCRJ) which should allow us to live within our means and not ask our citizens for additional tax or bond money to repair the jail needs.
Q: What other things were taken into account to make this decision?
A: Several months ago Sheriff Cox authored an editorial in the C-T about the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). Sheriff Cox articulated the pending and significant costs which the Federal Government will place on all prisons, jails, and lock up facilities. These costs are unfunded mandates from the federal government to Livingston County tax payers. The feds estimate that Livingston County would spend no less then $50,000 in 2013 and again every year thereafter in adhering to PREA standards. Additionally recent law passed by the State of Missouri will most likely cause a significant reduction in prisoner per diem reimbursements from the State of Missouri. For example in 2010 Livingston County received nearly $160,000 from the state in reimbursements for housing prisoners on state charges. For 2012 we are on track to receive only $110,000 in reimbursements for holding state prisoners; That is a total of at least $100,000 which needed to be added to our budget and aside from everything else, Livingston County could not have covered even these costs.
Q: Won't the sheriff and deputies be on the road transporting prisoners all the time?
A: No. The agreement with DDCRJ calls for DDCRJ to transport prisoners from the Livingston County Sheriff's Office or to/from Court. This will free up valuable time and countless hours for the deputies and sheriff to conduct other law enforcement work. DDCRJ will utilize video over the Internet to reduce prisoner transport time.
Q: Why use the jail in Pattonsburg and not somewhere closer?
A: DDCRJ is about 58 miles from the sheriff's office. Grundy County Jail cannot handle our numbers of detainees. Other counties were going to charge higher rates and/or not transport prisoners. DDCRJ is also in the 43rd Judicial Circuit which includes Livingston County, Daviess County, Caldwell County, Clinton County, and Dekalb County; 4 of these 5 counties now hold their detainees in DDCRJ.
Q: Why do I have to go to Pattonsburg, Missouri to visit my friend or family member in jail?
A: You do not have to travel at all to visit anyone at DDCRJ. The detainees have the option of making calls from jail phones and they also have the ability to have video visitation over the internet from their cell area.