Commissioners Monty Montgomery, Tony Simmons and Ivan Kelly met Friday morning to discuss the proposal. The county operates two jails, the main jail at the courthouse and the auxiliary jail on South Fifth Avenue, across the street from the Durant Police Department.
Approximately a year and a half ago, officials met to try to reduce the jail populations. At that time, the jails were under control of a county Jail Trust Authority. Control was returned to the sheriff in October 2007. According to Montgomery, the jails held 122 inmates on July 17, 2006. In January 2007, the number dropped to 112.
A daily report issued by the jail Friday morning showed that 81 people were in jail. The capacity of each jail is approximately 62 prisoners. According to Montgomery, closing the auxiliary jail, even part of the time, would save money.
“From May through July, the jail numbers go up every year,” he said. “In August and September, they start dropping. The trend has been that the jail population drops from the end of summer until it goes back up in April or May of the following year.”
Bryan County presently houses 22 prisoners who have been sentenced to state prison but not yet been transferred to the department of corrections.
“If we could get the state to take their inmates, we could move into one jail tomorrow,” Montgomery said.
Sheriff Bill Sturch said the jail receives $27 per day for DOC inmates, an amount that is not enough to cover expenses.
“We’re losing money on them right now,” Sturch said. “If we had them out of here, we’d be better off.”
Presently, the jail is not paid for holding prisoners who have been sentenced to state time until DOC receives a copy of the judgment and sentence signed by the judge. A new law set to take effect in November requires that DOC is responsible for the bill from the moment the prisoner is sentenced.
Commissioners passed a motion requesting the sheriff to contact DOC and ask them to take possession of their inmates.
Sturch said DOC already plans to pick up 15 prisoners in the near future.
When that happens and if the number of prisoners in jail awaiting trial is reduced, he said one jail could be closed, although that situation could change due to future population growth of the county.
A new jail will be necessary in the future, according to Sturch, who said citizens he has talked to realize that.
“Everybody in the back of their mind knows that,” he said.
Funding one, however, is another matter because most citizens would be against an additional sales tax, Sturch said.