Mohr: Federal inmates will pay for jail

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-By Katie Zerr

The addition of a new jail building could house federal prisoners for the U.S. Marshals Service and, according to Walworth County Sheriff Duane Mohr, pay for the new building and the daily operation of the jail.

Mohr said the proposed 32-bed addition to replace the more than 100-year-old portion of the current jail could be used to house 20 to 30 federal prisoners. Those prisoners would be from the U.S. Marshals Service from the Aberdeen area, including the Cheyenne and Standing Rock Reservations. The inmates would be those being held until they appear in federal court in Aberdeen. Currently, federal officers travel back and forth to Winner to transport inmates for court.

Mohr said they were told there could be up to 30 federal inmates housed at the proposed facility once it is completed. At this time, the county charges $65 per day per prisoner to house federal inmates. Mohr said that could increase to $75 in the new jail.

Mohr said there would be no cost for transporting prisoners as that is handled by the U.S. Marshals Service. He said if there were any transportation needs, the county would be fully reimbursed for any travel costs.

Inmates needing dental or medical attention are transported to local medical facilities, but the healthcare is billed to the federal government, not the county.

Although there is designated segregation for the males, females and juveniles, there would be no segregation between federal and county inmates unless required by their behavior. There is a six-bed maximum-security section in the new facility. There are also holding cells that could be used if necessary.

“We are not actually building this (new facility) to house federal prisoners,” said Mohr. “The cost for us to operate the jail is the same whether we hold federal prisoners or not. The federal prisoners provide more income for the county.”

Mohr said the reason for proposing the new jail facility at this time is the threat of liability lawsuits.

“I could say right now that the jail (current structure) could meet our needs until 2090, but the county has been put on notice,” he said. “I guarantee there would be a bigger lawsuit if something should happen. Something has to be done.”

Mohr said the proposed facility could be smaller, but then there is the possibility the county could outgrow the facility. He said it doesn’t cost much more to build bigger once the process is started.

 

Requirements met

Another of the issues with the current facility is that the county is required to offer the inmates one hour of sunlight per day or an outside exercise yard. The current yard is not available during inclement weather. The new exercise area would be larger and enclosed, but have natural sunlight during the day.

The plan is to have the new facility built first before the old jail is torn down. The juvenile inmates would then be moved into the existing addition (built in 1999) and the females into the new building.

During construction of the new facility, laundry and meal preparation would be done outside the facility and brought in until the laundry, kitchen and storage areas are completed.

With the new facility, there would be a need to hire more employees. A recent feasibility study suggested a staff of 18 employees to man the completed facility. Mohr said that would mean hiring four more full-time employees and two part-time employees to bring his staff to the requirement.

As for finding qualified people to hire for those positions, Mohr said he didn’t think there would be a problem finding employees once the new facility is built.

“Everyone is looking for help. We are hoping with the new facilities would appeal to the applicants,” he said. “We want employees who will stay here until they retire. These positions have the best retirement benefits on the state level.”

Boll reiterated Mohr’s position saying the sheriff’s office does not discriminate because of age.

“We have people who are 24 to 65-years-old,” he said. “We would draw a different type of applicant if we had a safe and secure facility that we can manage.”

Boll said the facility needs to be in Walworth County as currently they have contracts with several area counties to house inmates. The federal dollars will benefit the county’s taxpayers.

Mohr said there could be an increase for housing inmates from other counties as well once the new facility is operational.

“After the jail is paid for, all of that revenue goes into the general fund,” he said.

 

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