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State reimbursements help cover housing costs at Newton County's - KOAM TV 7

State reimbursements help cover housing costs at Newton County's overcrowded jail

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Newton County officials are finalizing their 2015 budget, nearly a third of which goes to the county sheriff's office.

Officials at the Newton County Jail say it is currently overcrowded and expenses for housing prisoners are high.

The prison population at the jail has nearly tripled since it first opened in 1995.

There are currently 91 inmates with just 80 beds. 

At one time, they held as many as 137 inmates.

"It makes things a little tighter," said Captain Richard Leavens, Newton County Sheriff's Office.  "People are sleeping on mats on the floor, rather than on bunks."

Leavens says expenses for housing the inmates are high.

20 percent of costs are covered by reimbursements from the state.

"Anything that the state gives back, goes back into general revenue," Leavens said.

He says nearly $216,000 has been reimbursed by the state this year. 

That amount covers a portion of the cost of housing prisoners, which is an estimated $38 per inmate, per day.

While the reimbursement helps, Leavens says reducing the prison population is the most effective way to cut costs.

The county has done just that this year by now allowing bonds to be posted at the Newton County Sheriff's Office.

"When they're arrested and transported to the facility where they're going to be incarcerated, if they have the amount of money on them, it does kind of speed the process up for them," said Beverley Stuart, Clerk 5, Newton County Circuit Court. "It can be posted right there at the sheriff's office now."

"Inmates are more likely to be able to post bond themselves, so it helps in keeping the population down," Leavens said.

Leavens says while this helps some, the county will need to expand the jail in the future.

"We've worked on some basic plans on increasing the housing ability, the kitchen space, booking facilities," he said. "All of that has to be expanded with more prisoners."

By the time it is necessary to expand, Newton County officials hope revenue in the county will have increased, due to the opening of the new Mercy Hospital and further expansion in that area.
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