OC team ‘market’ county jail beds

OSCEOLA COUNTY — With county Board of Commissioners approval, Osceola County Jail administrator Lt. Russ Wayne is busy negotiating with neighboring law enforcement organizations needing space to house prisoners.

As some county jail populations grow but corrections department space remains largely the same in most locations, it becomes necessary for county officials to relocate prisoners to jails with available space.

This can be a relatively lucrative arrangement for some counties, with the revenue generated by this out-sourcing going a long way toward helping maintain local facilities.

Osceola County’s Corrections team is hoping to remain “competitive” in offering space to counties that are overcrowded in their facilities and looking for a way to ease the strain.

“Commissioners gave me the go-ahead to negotiate comfortable terms with Wexford County, allowing them to house prisoners in Osceola if they have space issues,” reported Wayne.

“I’ll be meeting with them to iron out the details and we’ll see where it goes from here.”

Osceola County corrections has had a contract with Wexford for several years. This contract guarantees a set fee fro the use of ten beds in the Osceola lockup.

With the expansion of other county jail facilities around the state, some organizations are lowering rates being charged to house prisoners.

“Because of county jail expansion projects around the state, we’ve lost agreements with all the counties we had been serving — except Wexford,” said Wayne.

“Those other counties now can house their prisoners closer to home, and cheaper — $26 per day.

“With our Wexford contract expiring on June 30, I asked the commissioners to allow me to negotiate the same price for the 10-bed arrangement, and a lower rate for between 10 and 20 persons — two dollars lower — and then an additional discount of two dollars for between 20 and 30 prisoners.”

Osceola County’s jail has room for 77 inmates.

Generally speaking, on an average, 24 inmates from Osceola County are housed at any time, leaving 53 beds to be filled with housed prisoners from neighboring counties.

“In 2010, our total inmate average was 63 lodgers in any given period,” Wayne said.

“Out of that number of 63, Wexford County averaged 24 inmates in our facility.

“We want to create a good offer for our Wexford County neighbors that will make housing prisoners a good deal — both in distance and economically.

“Wexford also houses inmates in Missaukee and Benzie counties.

“We want to make it beneficial for them to house inmates with our facility.”

In short, with other counties shifting their inmate housing agreements to facilities closer to ‘home’, Osceola hopes to continue a revenue stream, however modest, by making it ‘good business’ for neighboring counties to make use of more regional offerings.

“With new facilities opening up in Midland County, there are options for beds that can draw inmates away from this area,’ said Wayne. “We lose funding. It’s as simple as that.

“Honestly, there’s a bit of a bidding war on jail beds going on out there.

“We want to stay competitive if we don’t want to lose this revenue flow.”

Osceola County pulls in some $9,000 per year in revenue from the housing of out-of-county inmates. This does not go to the jail, but is deposited with the county.

“We don’t see the money directly, but our commissioners have been very gracious in helping the jail facility out when needed,” said Wayne.

“It’s a good arrangement, and it is certainly a source of revenue for the county.”

Wayne will be negotiating over the next few weeks before a final agreement is reached.