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Committee Discusses Cost to Run Jail Per Day


The Mississippi County Fire, Police and Safety (FPS) Committee met Thursday and discussed jail fees and the contract between the county and the city of Blytheville. The committee also heard a proposal from Turn Key Health Clinics, which will oversee the day-to-day healthcare operations in the Mississippi County Sheriff’s Department.

Chairman of the FPS committee Rick Ash brought the numbers for the past five years on how much it cost per year to run the jail, how many prisoners are in jail per year and how much it cost per day. The sheet also had the average cost per day.

In 2014, the total expenditures were $3,344,063.14 with 62,273 prisoners with the cost being $53.70. In 2015, the total expenditures were $3,504,275.29 with 57,308 prisoners with the cost being $61.15. In 2016, the total expenditures were $3,253,859.54 with 52,512 prisoners with the cost being $61.96. In 2017, the total expenditures were $3,182,556.25 with 49,152 prisoners with the cost being $64.75. In 2018, the total expenditures were $3,352,072.40 with 46,997 prisoners with the cost being $71.33. The average cost per day was $62.58.

Ash explained the reason the cost is rising is because the number of prisoners had dropped from 62,273 to 46,997 prisoners in the last five years. He added that most of the expenses in the jail are a set cost.

Justice Molly Jackson stated the decrease in the amount of prisoners that run the jail caught her attention.

“We’ve gone from 62,000 prisoner days to roughly 47,000 prisoner days. So, if you look that’s about 15,000 prisoners over the course of the years which equals about 41 prisoners per day,” Jackson asked. “I mean I get that you have to plan for the prison to be full but that’s a significant decrease in prisoners and it cost us as much as it did in 2018 as it did to house 15,000 (prisoners) more a night. That seems a little skewed to me somewhere.”

Justice Fred Freeman added, “The next question I want to add with that is why? Why is that drastic number? Why is there being fewer people arrested? Because of the jail fees?”

Ash stated yes it was because of the “jail fees.”

Jackson then stated if Ash really believes that then they should leave jail fees alone.

“If people need to go to jail, I want them to go to jail,” Jackson said.

Concerning the contract that Blytheville city attorney Chris Brown brought to the committee, Ash stated that county attorney Jeremy Thomas looked at the contract and sent it back to Brown. He added Thomas wanted the Supreme Court ruling in the contract verbatim. He also said Thomas said he “didn’t see anything else in the contract.” He just wanted to tweak a few things.

Ash asked the committee what they wanted to do with the jail fees and then after that do they want to go into signing the contract with the city of Blytheville for jail fees to be $55 for the city of Blytheville for the year of 2020.

Justice Howard “Bubba” Norvell added, “Justice Fleeman talked to Manila and they can’t afford an increase. I’m sure a lot of smaller towns can’t afford us doing an increase. I still stand that we do not need to do an increase. We need to leave jail fees where they are and I don’t know if we need to enter into a contract because we can look at this again next year.”

Justice Neil Burge said if the county is not going to raise the rates there is no need for the county to enter into a contract.

Justice Michael White said the county is state mandated to provide the services to the city.

Burge added that the county lost a lot of population and also the capacity of the jail when built was 250 prisoners. He said he doesn’t believe there have been over 200 in the last few years.

Ash mentioned the highest to his understanding was 195 prisoners.

Norvel made the motion to leave jail fees as they are at the current rate of $55 through 2020. Fleeman seconded the motion and the motion passed unanimously.

Due to not raising the jail fees in 2020, Ash asked if anybody wanted to make a motion rather to enter into the contract with Blytheville or not.

The committee stated there was no reason to do the contract since the jail fees weren’t going to be raised.

The committee also heard from Danny Hickman with Turn Key Health Clinics.

Turn Key Health Clinics was established in 2009 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. They started in Arkansas in 2016. Hickman said he has been with Turn Key for three years and before that he was the sheriff in Boone County, Arkansas for 14 years.

Ash explained the Mississippi County Hospital System doesn’t have the capabilities that Turn Key can provide for the sheriff and the day will come when the hospital will not be able to do it.

Mississippi County Sheriff Dale Cook said Hickman was a seven-term sheriff and knows the ends and outs of the jail systems.

Hickman added that Turn Key is regional based and regional focused. He said they like to be within four to five hours from their clients.

Hickman said they would have LPN nurses on staff 12 hours a day and would have mobile x-rays come to the jail instead of the jail having to transport inmates to the hospital. They would also telecom in doctors to see patients.

He also mentioned that if Turn Key and the Mississippi County Sheriff Department (MSCD) ever split ways that the MCSD would keep all the records.

With the hospital officials saying they think Turn Key would better serve the MCSD, Norvell motioned to go in a contract with Turn Key.

Cook added before leaving that the MCSD was having a fish luncheon Friday at 11 a.m. for Major Larry Robinson's retirement and the justices were invited.