By JIMMY LAWTON
CANTON – A large number of inmates awaiting trials or sentencing and a growing population at the jail has forced St. Lawrence County to increase spending on inmate boarding for the second time in less than two months.
The new resolution approved this week moves $396,763 from the county's contingency account and into a variety of jail-related budget lines including medical fees, medical supplies, prisoner hospitalization, food supplies and court commitments.
The resolution also transfers $24,000 from jail building supplies, inmate and miscellaneous budget lines to help offset costs in other areas.
In August, the county agreed to move $160,000 from the contingency fund for county jail expenses.
According to the numbers included in both resolutions, the county has transferred $556,763 from a contingency fund that was only budgeted for $500,000. This fund was also supposed to serve as the contingency fund for all departments.
St. Lawrence County Administrator Karen St. Hilaire did not return phone calls regarding the jail funding Tuesday, but acknowledged in an August interview that the jail was surpassing budget costs.
Part of the problem is a delay in finishing pre-sentencing reports. The reports provide background information that may impact sentencing, and must be completed before the case can move forward.
The increased processing time means inmates who have not been tried, or sentenced, could be locked up for longer periods of time as they await court
St. Lawrence County Correctional facility has around 180 beds, and around 170 inmates. While that does leave empty beds, regulations regarding which inmates can be in particular pods can make them hard to fill. For instance, minors are separated from adults and inmates are also separated by gender.
Last year, the county was able to bring in revenue from its empty beds, by housing inmates from other areas.
Relying on past experience, the board budgeted $175,000 in revenue, which it typically generates by boarding inmates from other overcrowded facilities. Unfortunately the county had only collected about $40,000 in revenue in August.
Calls to St. Lawrence County Sheriff Kevin Wells regarding the issue were not returned.