PREBLE COUNTY — During a recent meeting, Preble County Commissioners authorized an expenditure of $20,000 for prisoner housing. According to the commissioners, that expenditure brought the total out-of-county inmate housing cost for 2018 up to $80,000.
However, Sheriff Mike Simpson explained, for 2018, through April, only $32,180 has been spent for housing, with $614.67 spent for medical costs related to prisoners. The $80,000 authorized by the commissioners was money encumbered to be spent, Simpson said.
May invoices have not yet been received.
For the whole of 2018, the Preble County Sheriff’s Office budgeted $100,000 for out-of-county inmate housing. Through April, the PCSO is on target to only spend the budgeted amount.
Currently, Preble County has a jail which accommodates 60 males and 10 females. When the jail is full, prisoners will be housed in Wayne County, Indiana and Mercer County, Ohio. As Preble County’s female jail capacity is low, the county mostly has to contract out-of-county for female housing.
At press time, the population of female inmates was down, but it does fluctuate. From January to April, 40 females have been housed out-of-county, for a total of 778 bed days. In January and February, the PCSO only housed seven inmates, but March housed 16 females out-of-county.
“What [the commissioners] generally have us do do, is have us encumber enough money and get authorization from them, so each month we’re not coming back to them for a resolution, because I have to spend another $8,000. We do it in larger chunks,” Simpson said.
“We spend money housing inmates out-of-county, and this is a problem all over the State of Ohio. There are sheriffs that will call miles away looking for places for male and female inmates. The jails just do not have the capacity. A couple years ago, the State of Ohio shoved the Felony 4 and Felony 5 offenders back to the local levels. They are not going to prison like they used to. They are staying in local county jails, which means we are picking up the cost.”
“This is an issue that all 88 sheriffs in Ohio are dealing with,” Simpson continued. “Some counties, I think it is probably a small amount, have plenty of bed space, but there are an awful lot that don’t. They are farming inmates all over the state and housing and paying for them, because they do not have the space.”
He added, for 2017, Preble County spent $90,721 housing prisoners out-of-county. In that year, there were four months that they housed both males and females out-of-county.
“When I started requesting money for outside housing, that topic came up, that if this continues then the county may have to have a consultant come in and look at our numbers over the last 10 years and come to a decision over what may need done to this facility,” Simpson said.
“We will need to make the decision — does the cost of out-of-county offset making our facility larger? What is the better bang for the tax payer dollars? To my knowledge, [the commissioners] have not had that conservation. We work closely with the judges in all three courts, trying to manage jail population. We work with them to try and keep our numbers so we do not need to house people out-of-county.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH