Second in a series.
Containing the costs of keeping inmates in jail is a balancing act for Singleton and every sheriff in Arkansas, he said in a recent interview, in part, because almost every jail in the state is overbooked for its capacity because of the lag time between a local conviction and state incarceration.
“The facility is an 88-bed jail facility; that is how many we can hold long-term, but we have them coming in and out,” Singleton said. “This year, we have been well over that since July. We hadn't dropped below a hundred, until day before yesterday. We dropped to 98; but, that is counting 10 Act 309 inmates.”
He said the county has beds for the Act 309 inmates.
Act 309 inmates are only partially accounted in the general population for per inmate costs because they are contracted to the county on a reimbursement basis. Hempstead County received $5,985 in 2012 for Act 309 inmate contracts, according to the 2013 Association of Arkansas Counties' Local Government Inmate Cost Report.
Still, according to Singleton, the HCDC has been over its 88-bed design capacity for most of 2013.
“We dropped below a hundred for the first time since March on Christmas Eve, but we are back up to a hundred, today,” he said. “That is not counting the juveniles who we have to place in other facilities.”
Accommodating the excess capacity is a matter of inmate management, based upon the seriousness of the crime, in many cases.
“We release some on ankle monitors,” Singleton said. “That has saved us quite a bit of money and space. Non-violent offenders are released on ankle monitors. Sometimes, we just have to manage things.”
Inmates are typically housed four to a cell in the two-man cell units, requiring the use of floor mats for some inmates, he said.
“I think our highest mark for the year was 119,” Singleton said. “We had that for about four days.”
Historically, the excess inmate population has been related to inmates in transition to ADC; until recently.
“The biggest thing, right now, is we have 42 people backed up waiting to go, who have already been sentenced to the Department of Corrections,” Singleton said. “But, then, on top of that, we have parole violators and probation violators, who we have to hold until there is some kind of determination made whether they are going to be revoked or sent back to prison.”
That increased recidivism produces a direct cost to the operation of the jail, he said.
In 2011, the Hempstead County Detention Center served 69,354 inmate meals and in 2012, the facility served 73,776 inmate meals, he said.
“This year, to date for 2013, we've served 99,147 meals,” Singleton said. “The recidivism rate is just phenomenal.
“That has been one of our biggest burdens, because we don't get any funds until they make those decisions, and they go back to prison or on parole,” he said. “Generally, they've been sending them to prison.”
Page 2 of 2 - Singleton said that, as of Dec. 26, 2013, Hempstead County had 121 male inmates returned to jail five times in 2013; 209 male inmates were returned to jail four times in 2013; and, 347 male inmates have returned to jail three times in 2013; and 715 male inmates have been returned to jail twice in 2013.
“They have spent a total of 12,899 days,” he said. “Of the females, we have had five come back five times; 21 come back four times; 54 come back three times; and 144 come back twice.”
Most of those repeat incarcerations are not due to transition to ADC, but are related to new crimes committed, Singleton said.
“They just get out and commit new crimes,” he said. “Theft and drugs is, I think the root of all evil; they steal in order to get drugs. I haven't gone back and researched it, but I would expect that, at least 75 percent of those are drugs. And, that is probably a low figure.”
Next: Costs v. conditions