York, Somerset counties refuse to accept boarder inmates over cost; House rejects plan to address issue

Posted May 31, 2012, at 5:14 p.m.
Last modified June 01, 2012, at 6:09 a.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine House of Representatives voted down a measure Thursday that would have addressed the issue of funding for the housing of boarder prisoners at county jails.

In a 70-69 vote, the House blocked an order by Rep. Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, to form a group of stakeholders to address the state’s reimbursement rates for boarder prisoners at the jails.

Earlier this month, the Somerset County Jail in East Madison closed down an entire pod and stopped accepting inmates from other counties, said McCabe. Such inmates are referred to as boarders.

York County has also stopped accepting boarders.

The state was paying only $22 per day per inmate from other counties housed at the Somerset County Jail, said McCabe.

That’s far less than it actually costs to take the boarders, said McCabe. That extra cost is passed on to the county taxpayers.

“This is a vote against Somerset and York counties,” McCabe said in a statement. “There is a crisis in our jails right now and the state is refusing to deal with it. This has been an issue since 2008 and it’s driving our property taxes up. It’s high time we address it.”

Sheriff Barry DeLong said it costs Somerset County $272 per day to house, feed and pay medical bills for an inmate. The jail continues to accept federal prisoners, which are reimbursed at $93 per day.

McCabe’s measure would have called for a group of stakeholders to get together to help draft a bill to address the issue. Now McCabe said he will likely draft his own bill that would be steered toward only Somerset County.

“I didn’t realize it was a big issue in Washington County until later today,” he said in a telephone interview. “It’s really all the counties that [are] getting the short end of the stick on this.”

For now, Franklin County is sending some of its inmates to Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset instead of to the Somerset County Jail.

McCabe said he thought some members of the House who voted against his measure were worried about the late timing of the order.

Despite the jail funding issue directly affecting Somerset and York counties, 13 representative from those counties voted against the measure.

“I was hoping the legislators in Somerset and York counties could come together and cross party lines to try to fix this issue. Obviously, I was disappointed that did not happen,” said McCabe.

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