OSCEOLA COUNTY — Whether it’s housing inmates from surrounding counties or the state, the Osceola County Jail continues to generate a substantial portion of funding from housing out-of-county inmates.

Osceola County Undersheriff Justin Halladay said each year his department budgets between $400,000 to $500,000 to be collected from housing out-of-county inmates, which is about 30 percent of the roughly $1.5 million budget.

“When we house a prisoner of our own, it’s money we don’t usually get back,” Halladay said. “When we house a prisoner from another county or the state of Michigan, that’s money above and beyond what we would get on a prisoner from our county.”

Currently, the Osceola County Jail has 77 inmates. Ten of those inmates are from Wexford County and 20 are from the Michigan Department of Corrections.

The Wexford County Jail is a smaller facility that often does not have room for all its inmates, Halladay explained. Michigan has cut back and closed some of its correctional facilities, which means more and more county jails are stepping in to help when possible.

It’s also much cheaper to house an inmate at a county facility compared to a state one, Halladay said.

“The last figures I looked at said it was roughly $80 to $90 per day to house an inmate in the state prison system compared to here where it’s about $40 per day for Osceola County,” he said.

Mecosta County Sheriff Todd Purcell said the Mecosta County Jail, which can house 97 prisoners, does not house out-of-county inmates.

“Our population remains toward a higher level with just our own inmates," he said. "Therefore we don’t house out-of-county inmates."

The Mecosta County Jail previously had a contract with the Federal Marshalls to house ten federal prisoners, but the contract was not renewed once Newaygo County built its facility to house federal inmates.

The money from the contract had been specifically sought and earmarked to help fund a jail expansion, so when the funds were lost, it had no impact on the overall budget for the Mecosta County Jail.

For Osceola County, the revenue made from housing out-of-county prisoners serves many purposes, including fully funding the salary of a drug enforcement officer. The officer was hired on a grant initially and when the grant ran out, the department was able to keep the officer by paying the wages through the money generated from out-of-county inmates.

“When grants run out, most counties would have to pull the individual out, but the drug problem in Northern Michigan and Osceola County isn’t something to overlook,” Halladay said. “This money fully funds an officer placed in the TNT drug team so our department doesn't lose anyone on the road.”

In the past, Osceola County had even more prisoners from out of county than it does today. While about 35 percent of the current population is from out of county, Halladay said three or four years ago the number was closer to 50 percent, and sometimes as high as 70 percent.

Osceola County was housing for Wexford, Kalamazoo and Midland counties, as well as for the state because Osceola County did not have many inmates, Halladay said.

Halladay attributes the increase over the years in inmates from Osceola County to diligent policing and aggressive work by the court system and Osceola County Prosecutor’s Office.

If Osceola County did start receiving a lot more of its own prisoners, the jail would just cut back on the number of out-of-county inmates, but the system is working great and has many benefits for the department, Halladay said.

“We’re going to have a facility open either way and we’re going to have the same amount of workers, so if we can have it filled up and make money from those additional inmates, it’s just a bonus,” he said.