Sheriff: Jail layoffs can be avoided by housing more federal inmates, moving maximum security prisoners to Warren
BANGOR, Maine — Penobscot County Sheriff Glenn Ross told county commissioners Tuesday that he will be able to avoid layoffs at the Penobscot County Jail by sending maximum security prisoners to the Maine State Prison to make room for more inmates facing federal charges.
The boarding fees brought in by the federal detainees are expected to make up the $400,000 shortfall, Ross said. The Department of Corrections has agreed to house PCJ’s maximum security prisoners at the Maine State Prison in Warren.
The U.S. Marshals Service pays the jail $96 per day per prisoner and it costs the jail between $20 and $28 per day to house a federal detainee, Ross said. The federal government also pays the medical expenses for inmates housed at county jails.
The sheriff said last week that he was looking at laying off between 12 and 14 of the 84 full- and part-time jail employees due to flat funding from the state.
The budget for the fiscal year that began July 1 is $7.8 million. That includes a 2 percent raise for employees, about $90,000 in health care costs for part-time employees due to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and an estimated $500,000 in medical costs for inmates.
Ross said that changes in MaineCare eligibility have meant that fewer inmates qualify for health care benefits when they require medical treatment. Those medical costs are absorbed by the jail.
The sheriff said Tuesday that he currently averages between four and five federal detainees a day in the facility. By converting the maximum security section of the jail to an area designated for federal detainees, he can accommodate a dozen inmates facing federal charges, the sheriff said.
U.S. Marshal Noel March said Tuesday that because there is no federal detention center in Maine to house pretrial defendants, the Marshals Service contracts with county jails to board federal detainees. The marshal said that an average of 90 federal inmates are in county jails on any given day.
“We can make no promises to any one county about how many prisoners we will be able to house in a facility,” March said Tuesday. “We would like to have more space available in the Penobscot County Jail because it is the facility closest to the federal court in Bangor.”
Efforts to reach DOC Commissioner Joseph Ponte late Tuesday afternoon were unsuccessful.
In addition to Penobscot County, the U.S. Marshals Service has contracts with jails in Cumberland, Hancock, Somerset and Piscataquis counties.
Hancock County Sheriff William Clark said Monday that he plans to make up his $60,000 budget shortfall by housing two federal detainees.
Ross said Tuesday that prisoners classified as maximum security who would be moved to Warren could include defendants charged with murder, manslaughter, robbery or other violent crimes. Inmates also could be classified as maximum security if they cannot follow jail rules.
Several high-profile defendants already are being held at other facilities, Ross said.
Kyle Dube, 20, of Orono was moved last month to the state prison so he could be kept in protective custody, according to a previously published report. Dube has pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnapping and murder in connection with the death of Nichole Cable, 15, of Alton and Glenburn on Mothers’ Day.
Dube is one of 10 defendants facing murder or manslaughter charges in Penobscot County. All but Dustin Brown, 29, of Bangor are being held without bail.
The other defendants are are: William Hall, 31, of Bangor; Roxanne Jeskey, 49, of Bangor; Jason A. Trickett, 42, transient; Nicholas J. Sexton, 31, of Warwick, R.I.; Randall “Ricky” Daluz, 34, of Brockton, Mass.; Akeem T. Harris, 23, of Amityville, N.Y.; David Coon, 50, of Bangor; and Peter Robinson, 50, of Bradford, who is awaiting sentencing.
Hall has been moved to the Maine State Prison while awaiting a bed at the Riverview Psychiatric Hospital in Augusta, Ross said Tuesday. Daluz is being held at the Hancock County Jail to avoid contact with his codefendant Sexton. Daluz and Sexton are charged in connection with the triple homicide last summer in Bangor.
About 30 jail employees attended the county commissioners weekly meeting Tuesday to hear if any of them would lose their jobs due to flat funding from the state.
Jim Mackie, who works for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the union that represents most jail employees, said after the commissioners’ meeting that employees were relieved to hear there would not be layoffs. He urged commissioners to look at cutting programs at the jail before they laid off workers if the income from federal detainees does not meet projections.
Commissioners, who toured the jail Tuesday morning after their meeting, praised Ross for finding a solution that did not eliminate jobs.
“We don’t want to lose jobs,” Commissioner Tom Davis of Kenduskeag said. “The problem isn’t here, the problem is 80 miles down the road [in Augusta].”
Ross’ final budget must be approved July 16 by the Board of Corrections.
The consolidation that brought the county jails under the control of the Board of Corrections was put in place in 2008 during the Baldacci administration. The amount of county property tax money contributed to the support of the jails was frozen.
The jail is licensed to hold 143 inmates but often houses up to 20 more than that due to a lack of available bed space at other facilities around the state, Ross said.
Since the consolidation, the state has never funded the jails at the level required to operate them nor created a fund for repairs, Ross said.