It’s going on 20 years since Georgia set the rate it pays to house inmates in county prisons, and Floyd County Commissioners are asking local lawmakers to increase the amount this year.
“There’s been an increase in medical costs; there’s been an increase in everything. It makes sense,” Commissioner Allison Watters said.
The 2019 Georgia General Assembly session starts Monday.
Floyd County gets $20 a day for each inmate the state places in the facility on Black's Bluff Road, which has a contract to provide 425 beds. The board is seeking $25 a day, backed by the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, which also represents 21 other counties in the same boat.
County Manager Jamie McCord said some of the costs are offset by inmate work details contracted out to various agencies in Floyd and surrounding counties. However, the prison needs extensive upgrades that aren’t being covered.
“We’ve become a regional hub for details,” McCord told members of the legislative delegation last week. “It’s good labor for the entities that utilize it and it’s good training for the inmates for when they get out. We just need help. It clearly costs more than $20 a day.”
Rep. Eddie Lumsden noted that county correctional institutions are the most cost-effective facilities when it comes to housing state prisoners, according to a report released in December by the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts.
The audit showed that, in fiscal year 2018, it cost the Georgia Department of Corrections an average of $21.63 per diem for inmates in CCIs. That’s compared to $44.56 per diem in comparable state prisons and $49.07 per diem in private prisons.
There are 22 CCIs, 34 state prisons and four privately run prisons in the system.
Lumsden and Rep. Mitchell Scoggins, R-Rydal, said they would try to generate some movement on the issue. However, Lumsden noted that most lawmakers represent counties without prisons.
“Often, what affects us doesn’t affect the state as a whole, so sometimes it’s like banging our heads against the wall,” he said.
The performance audit — requested by the House Appropriations Committee — also recommends an increase. It notes that the rate hasn’t budged since 1999 and is less than half the daily rate paid to private prisons.
“During our review, we identified two CCIs that recently ceased contracting with the state. GDC staff indicated the low reimbursement rate was a factor in their decisions,” the report states.
In fiscal year 2018, CCIs supervised an average of 4,684 inmates a day, equal to 9.4 percent of the state’s prison population. The report emphasizes that relocation to a comparable state facility would more than double the cost of their incarceration.
The discussion came during a meeting to set legislative priorities for the coming session. Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, participated by phone from Atlanta. McCord said Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, had a prior commitment but was briefed on the issue earlier.