A bill authored by State Rep. Scott Biggs (R-Chickasha) addressing the Oklahoma Department of Corrections alleged abuse of the county jail system made it past its committee hearing this week.
The bill addresses a state law, which allows the DOC to pay county jails $27 per day to house their inmates. This cost creates a $13 daily shortfall per inmate in Grady County, as the DOC allocates $40 per day, per inmate in its budget, according to Grady County Commissioner Jack Porter.
House Bill 2804 allows the presiding district judge of each county to set a daily reimbursement rate if the DOC and county are unable to reach and agreement on cost.
Biggs cited a 2007 DOC audit by MGT of America that stated the DOC's usage of county jails "is a bargain" at $27 a day during the meeting.
"They are saving money on the backs of counties," said Biggs. "There are between 1,700 and 1,800 (DOC) inmates in county jails right now, and it will be between seven and eight months before they are picked up. Some counties have filed suits agains the DOC because $27 a day doesn't even begin to break even on the cost."
Senior Principal for Capital Detention Systems LLC Truman Bidelspach, the contract consultants for the Grady County Justice Authority said he feels the bill is very solid.
"There are no absolutes, but I feel good about this moving forward," he said.
The Grady County jail also houses federal inmates. The jail was built without tax money, and is mostly maintained by funds received from the federal government when they have their witnesses or prisoners stay in the facility during transport.
When the DOC leaves its prisoners in the jail, it hampers the federal government's ability to sleep inmates in Grady County.
The federal government pays the jail $57 a night, per inmate compared to DOC's $27 a night rate. The majority of the jail's monetary security comes from the Federal payout, which has lessened due to overcrowding brought on by the influx of DOC inmates.
"Tax payers don't really have any idea how much they are saving," Bidelspach said. 'If their taxes double, they will be very aware of it."
If things were to continue as they are, Grady County residents could see an increase in their bills to offset revenue lost from federal contacts, Porter said in a 2013 interview.
In addition to the DOC's possible abuse of the system, Bidelspach said the number of arrests in the county have increased contributing to the problem.
"The question remains, how many of these are for failure to appear and issues like that," he asked. "How long are they going to stay? We need to look at what serves the interest of public safety."
With the bills passing the committee stage of its evolution, Biggs said he expects a hearing on the House floor within the next few weeks.