With increased fuel costs, food and medical expenses, the cost to house an inmate keeps going up, according to Ottawa County Undersheriff Bob Ernst.
“There has been no increase in what we charge to keep an inmate for about six years,” Ernst said. “We had to do something to keep our budget in line.”
Towns throughout Ottawa County have been advised in recent weeks that they will now be charged $23 per day to keep an inmate in the county jail on municipal charges.
“There is a grace period of 19 days that we will keep a prisoner on municipal charges free of charge,” Ernst said. “In the event the prisoner is still incarcerated after that 19-day grace period, the town will be charged $23 per day.”
The majority of inmates held in Ottawa County are awaiting a bed in a Department of Corrections facility.
Prior to this year's legislative session, county jails received a per diem rate of $23 per day for each inmate held on a DOC conviction.
Legislators passed a bill that increased the per diem to $27 per day.
While the county jail has seen a decrease in overcrowding under Sheriff Terry Durborow's administration, the Oklahoma Criminal Justice Resource Center projects an increase in offenders over the next several months.
A change in sentencing policies, including guidelines that require some convicted felons to serve 85 percent of their sentences, is a huge contributor to what will become a serious overcrowding situation across the state, according to jail administrators.
"Those policies include emphasis on the so-called "deadly sins," a list of 19 violent offenses that require those convicted of them to serve at least 85 percent of their sentence," said K.C. Moon, OCJRC director. "The offenses include murder, rape and some forms of robbery, burglary, arson and child molestation."
The original list of 11 deadly sins was adopted by the Legislature in 1999. Lawmakers have added new crimes to the 85 percent requirement in subsequent years.
Because inmates must serve more of their sentences, fewer are leaving the state's prison system as more inmates are received.
Oklahoma is already the nation's top incarcerator of women, per capita, and fourth in the country in the number of men, per capita, in state prisons, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Durborow said he has been working with the district court and DOC to decrease the inmate population, which in turn reduces the cost to house the inmates.