County Jails Wait On Budget Decisions in Lansing

While the legislature and governor continue a stalemate over supplemental budgets, county jails are being held up in limbo.

With the legislature on break, the soonest there could be additions to the budget is next week and with each passing day, county jails are holding state inmates for free.

Through the County Reimbursement Jail Program, county jails rent out open beds to the state to house their inmates.

“For 2017, we had more than $31,000,” says Osceola County Sheriff Ed Williams, “In 2018, we had $29,000.”

In October, Governor Gretchen Whitmer vetoed the program out of the budget. Since then, there has been talk of putting it back but no movement.

“It’s terrible,” says Williams, “$31,000 is two-thirds of a full-time employee that has any tenure here.”

For a small county like Osceola, that’s a big deal and a waste of a revenue source.

“If we didn’t have them here we could rent that space out,” says Williams.

It essentially adds up to about $45 a day per inmate that the state pays county jails to house these prisoners. Even if the program is put back in the place in December, there is no promise that they will be reimbursed for the missed money and that’s really going to add up. Every dollar is important for small town county jails.

“The county’s expenses are spent every year,” says Williams, “We seem to have more expenses than we do have revenue.”

Smaller counties tend to have tighter budgets and more open beds so this has been a reliable income. If the reimbursement program doesn’t get reinstated, Sheriffs like Williams will be forced to tell judges to look elsewhere.

“We’re trying to think positive,” says Williams, “Hopefully this will correct itself and we can move forward so at this time we haven’t necessarily severed the bridge.”