The ability to house Department of Correction inmates at the Pulaski County Jail has proven to be a cost effective move since the practice began a few years ago.
The jail was built to house 127 inmates and when Sheriff Gayer first took office in January 2007, he was thinking of ways to bring in money to the county and thought that housing DOC inmates would bring in money to the county’s General Fund. The administration contacted the DOC about the possibility and Gayer said they started filling up the facility with DOC inmates.
“Now, there were some hurdles that we had to jump through first before that became reality,” explained Gayer. “We have to teach so many different educational programs to the inmates. We offer GED, Thinking for a Change, substance abuse and classes like that in order to house DOC inmates.”
The DOC pays the county $35 per inmate per day. It doesn’t cost that much extra to house the inmate other than laundry, water and sewer utilities and meals so the county basically clears $32 a day.
“In our best year, we housed 50 inmates and we gave to the county General Fund $687,000. Those monies could be used to pave an extra road or buy a piece of equipment for the highway department -there were a multitude of things that the county council and the commissioners could do with the $687,000 we made for them while housing Department of Correction inmates,” said Gayer.
With the highs come the lows as the county is now housing only seven DOC inmates.
“The problem is, the Department of Corrections opened up another facility within their own system of prisons and they obviously have to back-fill their own beds before they start sending the inmates out to other county holding facilities,” Gayer explained. “There are about 47 out of the 92 sheriff’s departments in the state that house DOC inmates. Depending on the number of people being arrested and the number of people being placed in correctional facilities changes the bed capacity.”
The sheriff and the officials at the Department of Corrections believe that the amount of DOC prisoners will go up again at the Pulaski County Jail.
Regardless of the number of prisoners in the jail, Sheriff Gayer said there is one goal in mind.
“Our whole purpose is to make them better than what they were when they came in. So when they leave our facility, they can do out into the world, get a job, pay taxes and live like the rest of us do as opposed to reverting to a life of criminal activity,” Gayer said.