Saturday, December 1, 2012

Federal, State and Local Inmates: What is OUR Responsibility?

How might this apply to Robertson County? Well, in my humble opinion, this County relies too much on “state” (“Tennessee Department of Corrections” or “TDOC”)) prisoners as well as federal prisoners to – and, I quote folks around government - “make” money or “generate revenues.” You are reading this correctly, there are folks in and around your county government who believe that “the jail” (the “Robertson County Detention Facility”) is an opportunity to increase our county revenues.

On its face, the argument appears to be a good idea, but once you really analyze it, it is a slippery proposition.
Here is what I mean…
The County is paid to house inmates from the federal and state systems. Obviously, there are costs associated with housing those inmates, and housing inmates that are generated within our County. The argument is that those inmates help offset the costs for the jail and other law enforcement activities. The problem is that there is not ever a fundamental understanding as to the costs incurred in housing those inmates. Even when those numbers are discussed, it does not take into account the capital outlays (i.e. the costs in financing  - debt incursion – of the jail itself), not to mention the actual costs of the new employees (i.e. guards) that the County must hire in order to maintain the ever expanding facilities. So, the true costs of expanding the Robertson County Detention Facility is never open for candid discussion.
But, the counter-argument is that the revenues generated benefit the County... You see the circular argument here. Just remember that when you are told that the inmate population necessitates expansion. We are creating the need for that expansion.
And, this is what brings me to the point of highlighting this story – that is, if the State of Tennessee is reaching critical mass with some of the inmate issues, there are going to repercussions felt here in Robertson County.
What do I mean?
Well, at present, the state has deferred really taking any action in expanding or constructing new TDOC facilities in quite some time. The article's mention of the Bledsoe County facility shows how unique these expansions are, and what may be in store.
If the state takes measures to construct, expand or reduce the number of inmates what we rely on here for revenue will plummet. How then we will be able to sustain the revenue shortfall?
At present, it is not a question anyone has been willing to ask….


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