Several times I have reported on the status of the Livingston County Jail and the budget for the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office. Knowing the Livingston County Jail was closed in December 2012 due to projected costs for needed repairs and replacement of worn out equipment. We also have detailed the requirement for additional detention staff numbers from what we were permitted before 2013. We then had the burdensome Federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) which was about to fall on us. None of which our county could support individually or combined.
For 3 years now the LCSO and Livingston County Commission have been able to live within our means since the Livingston County Jail was closed detainees are being held at the Daviess Dekalb County Regional Jail (DDCRJ). I cannot say we have prospered but I am thankful that is 3 years we have not had to ask our citizens for additional revenue.
Livingston County’s tax revenues are increasingly tight. Just as the cost of living impacts each and every family, those same costs continue to rise for public safety and government services for all of our citizens.
The LCSO and Sheriff Cox have a great working relationship with the administration and staff at DDCRJ. We openly share information vital to administration and staff regarding detainees and court for everyone’s safety and wellbeing.
For 3 years now DDCRJ has taken care of our detainees without asking for any increase in daily rate costs. Inflation and medical costs have created a situation where our daily rate will be raised from $30.00 per day to $34.00 per day per detainee.
In 2015 the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office spent $457,530 on Board of Prisoners. At $30 per detainee per day that comes to 15,251 bed days for the year which averages to 41.78 detainees per day.
Some will say wow we could have our own jail for that. The truth? NO WAY. In reality the Livingston County Jail was a 48-bed facility. Keep in mind that we only pay for Livingston County detainees at DDCRJ. If we still had our jail we would be holding for Linn County Sheriff (in 2015 Sheriff Parks averaged 14 + detainees in custody per day). We would also be holding detainees for the City of Chillicothe, and out of county prisoners on warrants and awaiting extradition from elsewhere in the United States (usually from the Chillicothe Correctional Center).
Consider these problems:
In 2015 we had extended peak of Livingston County detainee populations of 58 prisoners at DDCRJ. Add 14 detainees from Linn County we would have been at 72. Add the municipal and other detainees we could have easily been at 80 detainees in a 48-bed jail. Even with a few temporary bunks on the floor we would have been outsourcing and transporting detainees to other jails in north Missouri at a higher daily rate than we now have contracted.
We saw a peak female Livingston County detainee population at DDCRJ of 23/day. That was without Linn County female detainees or any female detainee from a municipal or other organization in a jail with only 12 beds for females. Again we would have been outsourcing detainees in jails around north Missouri at a higher cost per day.
Both the above could require our staff do all transports, cover all medical costs, and still be liable for their daily care for those detainees we would be outsourcing. All while still caring for, guarding, and accepting all costs for the detainees in our jail facility.
To expand on the matter the County of Livingston still does not have the tax revenue to have adequately staff, let alone repair and cover equipment needs for the jail. For years I shared information with the previous county commissions on the staffing needs of the Livingston County Jail. Those needs were unable to be dealt with because of lack of funding ability by the commission. This meant we typically had 1 detention officer on duty per shift, that being 1 detention officer on duty to cover the entire jail, intake, meals, medical and provide all safety and security for the detainees and facility. The sheriff and deputies were often required to help in the jail instead of other law enforcement duties.
My understanding of one external professional study of the Livingston County Jail is that IF we could fix the problems and update the equipment needs, we would have to close the women’s cell areas and only hold male detainees. With that we would need a dedicated work force for the Livingston County Jail at 5 detention officers on duty during waking hours and 3 on duty during non-waking hours to be in compliance with all laws and standards. Considering we had only 5 total full time detention officers and permitted 1 part time employee before closing the jail, this would have multiplied our annual budget way beyond our county capacity.
Estimates of our true costs to house detainees in a renovated or new Livingston County Jail would be upwards of $60 per detainee per day. At present it remains a win for Livingston County Tax Payers to continue with DDCRJ at their new costs of $34 per detainee per day. Even knowing that $4.00 per day per detainee increase is strangling our budgets and goals for services. The time is near for Livingston County government to seek additional revenues so all county offices may continue to provide and better provide services to you.
Thank you for reading this editorial and for your continued support, trust, and friendship.
Sheriff Steve Cox