County jail begins housing Indiana federal inmates

The Oldham County Detention Center is now housing federal inmates from Indiana.

Oldham County Jailer Mike Simpson has previously spoken at Oldham County Fiscal Court about the possible arrangement with U.S. Marshals in Indiana to house federal inmates in the county jail.

As of a few weeks ago, that arrangement came to fruition.

“It was a very easy decision on our part,” Simpson said of the new arrangement.

The county jail has long housed federal inmates, even before the new detention center was built.

Since 1997, the county has had a contract with the U.S. Marshals Service. According to Simpson, Indiana is piggybacking off that long-standing contract in order to house some of their inmates in Oldham County.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, in 2018, the U.S. Marshals Service housed over 31,500 prisoners in state and local facilities. That same year, they also had approximately 1,100 agreements with state and local governments for use of their jails.

Simpson said the county jail has taken in approximately 17 federal inmates from Indiana so far and they are due to receive about 24 more inmates within the next week.

Much of this will entail county jail officials traveling to Indianapolis to pick up the inmates, but some of them will also come from New Albany because the federal courthouse for the U.S. District Court Southern District of Indiana is located there.

In the long run, Simpson said he wants to increase the number of federal inmates from Indiana in the county jail.

“We’re going to be pushing toward 85 to 100,” he said.

For Simpson, the decision to take in federal inmates from Indiana was largely a financial one.

The county jail houses inmates from Oldham, Henry and Trimble counties, according to Simpson, as well as inmates from the state Department of Corrections and federal inmates.

What makes taking more federal inmates a lucrative deal is the per-diem rate attached to these inmates. Per-diems in county jails refer to the money state and federal agencies allot to county jails to house inmates. The per-diem covers things like meals and cost to house an inmate.

According to Lisa Lamb, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Corrections, the per-diem rate for county jails to house state inmates is $31.34, and this number has remained the same for over 10 years.

Simpson said the jail had to move some state inmates to other facilities in order to make more room for the federal inmates.

According to the May 23 jail population report, which is the most recent, there were 92 federal inmates housed in the county jail. The report doesn’t break down where those inmates originate.

In contrast, the per-diem rate given to jails for federal inmates is $57. Medical costs for state and federal inmates are also different. The county has to pay for any medical expenses for state inmates, but not for federal inmates.

“The higher per-diem and U.S. Marshals picking up medical costs…we look for it to generate a lot of additional revenue,” Simpson said.

Messages left with the U.S. Marshals Service in Indiana were not returned before the time of press.

Indiana’s prison population more than quadrupled between 1980 and 2016, and reached its peak in 2014 when there were 29,220 people in prison, according to the American Civil Liberties Union Smart Justice report.

In early April, Simpson told the fiscal court he’s seeking a federal designation from the Marshals Service so the county jail will be able to house federal prisoners for longer periods of time.

During that meeting, he also presented a proposed budget for the jail, requesting approximately $553,000 from the county for the jail’s upcoming 2020 budget. Since it was first presented, the jail budget has yet to come back for another reading.

Read online at The Oldham Era

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