Sheriff's Office Looking To Save Taxpayers Money

Tuesday, January 29th 2008, 8:03 pm
By: News On 6

The Tulsa County Sheriff's Office has a lot of ideas on how to save taxpayers some money.  They're trying to convince legislators to turn those ideas into laws.  News On 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright reports if a county jail needs additional money, chances are, it will increase property taxes.  That's why sheriffs all over the state are trying to come up with ways to bring in more money.

Legislators were at Tulsa County's jail on Tuesday for a first-hand look on how those ideas would work.

Booking is the first stop for people going to jail.  Booking someone costs $96, for the photograph, fingerprints, jail clothes, paperwork and hygiene kit.

Jails want a law that lets them charge a $20 booking fee, to recoup some of those expenses.

"We're just trying to take some of the burden off the taxpayers and put it on the user, so to speak," said Deputy Chief Tim Albin.

Jails are also holding a lot of people who are supposed to be in state prison, but the prisons are full.  The state pays jails $27 a day to hold people, but it's costing jails nearly $50 a day to house them.

Jails want to be paid their costs, which the state already pays private prisons.

"Currently, I'm holding 200 D.O.C. inmates at $27 a day, it's costing me, it's a loser for us," said Albin.

Another issue is people in jail because they can't pay their fines.  They currently sit in jail at a rate of $25 a day until the fines are paid off.  But, again, it's costing the jail $50 to house them.

"Hey, how about, you raised fines, why don't you raise the sit-out fee to 50 dollars so I'm at least getting my costs," said Albin.

Finally, jails say something has to be done about the out-of-control medical costs.  The law says if inmates can't pay, then, the sheriff has to which keeps them from getting Medicaid reimbursement.

Even if a person has been doing drugs for 20 years, if they have a heart attack in jail because of it, taxpayers foot the bill.

"It's a million dollar deal for Tulsa, Oklahoma. We're spending a million dollars a year just on outside medical," said Albin.

If the state pays the jails more, it's still taxpayer money, but, it's not coming directly out of the local residents' property taxes.

The last law they want, is for a cell phone to be considered contraband inside a jail.  They say phones can be used to arrange crimes or intimidate witnesses.