City saving on inmate housing

Published 7:56 pm Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The City of Bainbridge is seeing some savings by shipping its prisoners up the road to Pelham, Ga., instead of housing them locally, a reality City Manager Chris Hobby said was “not ideal, but necessary” given tough economic times.

Between October 2010 and October 2011, Bainbridge spent $134,730 to house its prisoners at the Pelham City Jail — one of the statistics offered by the city’s General Administration Division staff during their annual presentation at Tuesday’s Bainbridge City Council meeting.

The most recent inmate housing figure is a significant savings over the approximately $197,000 per year that the city was paying to house inmates at the Decatur County Jail previously. In July 2010, the city council voted to switch from the Decatur County Jail to the Pelham City Jail, due to cost concerns and other issues.

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Pelham offered to charge a fee of $30 per inmate, per day, whereas Decatur County offered a fee of $38 per inmate, per day, based on a 1995 per-inmate cost of $24, adjusted for subsequent inflation.

“In a perfect world, we’d be more satisfied keeping our prisoners locally,” Hobby said after Tuesday’s meeting. “But with the economy like it is, we’re still facing a revenue shortage and we have to find savings whereever we can.”

Some citizens had questioned the feasibility of transporting the city’s prisoners to Pelham, a distance of 35 miles from Bainbridge, versus the 3.6 miles between Bainbridge Public Safety and the Sheriff’s Office. Most of the city’s prisoners are people who were charged with misdemeanors but were unable to post a bail bond at the time they were booked.

However, Hobby said city officials continue to be satisfied with the contract with Pelham.

“They come and pick up our prisoners any time we say they are ready to go,” Hobby said.

Although the city manager acknowledged a couple of prisoners had escaped from the temporary holding cells located in the garage of Public Safety headquarters, he said there have been no issues with security in recent months. At least one Public Safety officer is required to be present anytime a prisoner is being held in the holding cell; there are also security cameras that can be monitored by desk officers.