Marshall County Council Approves Add’l Appropriation of $80,000 for Prisoner Meals

The Marshall County Jail situation is causing the Marshall County Council to plan differently for next year’s budget.

Sheriff Tom Chamberlin was before the council Monday morning to ask for $80,000 in additional appropriations for prisoner meals for the rest of the year. He commented that just over the weekend the jail saw over 200 inmates in the facility which is the most that has been incarcerated at one time since the jail was built in 2006. The bed capacity is 238.

Forty-two inmates are incarcerated on misdemeanor charges and 158 are housed on felony charges. Of those, 148 are awaiting pre-trial hearings in court and one is being held on parole. Chamberlin said there isn’t much turnaround in terms of space as the courts are trying to work to get the offenders’ cases through court, but the court is extremely backlogged.

Sixteen inmates were transferred to the Department of Corrections last month and Chamberlin expects another eight to ten to be transported this month, which doesn’t alleviate the situation any faster.

The staff is attempting to separate misdemeanor criminals from the felony criminals, keep the separation of co-defendants and those with certain medical needs. They are also attempting to separate family members, which Chamberlin said is becoming a struggle. Chamberlin has ordered nine additional beds and has converted the recreation room into a general facility to house prisoners to keep up with separation issues.

Due to the high amount of inmates, Chamberlin requested $80,000 to be appropriated to help pay for prisoner meals. The meal cost averages 95 cents per day and the staff serves approximately 18,000 meals a month. Chamberlin insisted that $80,000 should be enough to get by until the end of the year.

The council members remarked that they will have to take a closer look at the Sheriff’s budget for the next year when they meet for hearings next week. $80,000 is an extreme shortfall that was not foreseen in the budget. Sheriff Chamberlin replied that this expenditure is hard to predict but needs to be looked at.

Chamberlin suggested that the council may want to keep jail expansion in the back of their minds in the next couple of years.

The council members approved the additional appropriation of $80,000 to be taken from the CAGIT Correctional Fund by a vote of 5-2.