Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

February 22, 2007

Jail bill disappoints area judge-executives

Does not include relief for inmate’s medical costs

Their high hopes dampened but not entirely dashed, FIVCO area judge-executives are watching the progress of a bill that would provide financial relief to county jails.

They had hoped the state would take financial responsibility for state prisoners housed at county jails, but as it stands the bill offers little more than some relief for prisoner medical costs.

House Bill 187 made it out of committee and appears headed for passage on the floor of the state House of Representatives, albeit without language providing for reimbursement for state prisoners.

“It’s not as good a bill the second time around,” said Greenup County Judge-Executive Bobby Carpenter, who for years has called for the state to shoulder the burden of paying for its own prisoners.

Currently the state pays for lodging prisoners convicted of some state crimes, but only after they are sentenced. If a state prisoner has been jailed prior to the sentencing, he or she gets credit for time served, but the county doesn’t get paid for that time and has to swallow the cost. The original bill would have changed that.

The amended bill that passed the committee vote had the teeth yanked out of it, Carpenter said. Provisions to phase in reimbursement were removed and other provisions that cap medical payments were inserted.

County officials had hoped for the reimbursements because jail spending is overwhelming their budgets.

Also under the bill, a task force will be assembled to study jail funding and recommend ways to cut costs for counties.

“A lot of what they took out hurts the counties,” said Carter County Judge-Executive Charles Wallace. “We need everything we can get.”

The medical provision may help somewhat. Medical costs in the Carter jail “have gone through the roof,” Wallace said.

That provision actually is a boon to counties because it caps the amount medical providers can charge for prisoner treatment to the rate charged under the Kentucky Medical Assistance Program, said Vince Lang, executive director of the Kentucky County Judge-Executive Association.

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