Sen. Tomes has introduced SB 120 which would increase the amount the State pays counties to hold state prisoners. Generally speaking, after offenders are convicted of a felony and sentenced by a state court, housing them is a state responsibility. The State changed this somewhat by leaving lower level felons (Level 6 — what had been Class D) in county jails as a matter of course. The State reimburses counties for offenders left in county jails rather than being housed in the state prisons. According to the fiscal note, the amount of that reimbursement since 1991 has been $35 per offender per day. This legislation would set a floor of $55 per day.
I’m certainly in favor of an increase. I have no real idea as to whether $55 per day realistically reflects the cost of incarcerating an inmate. Local government has very little control over who is sentenced and for how long. Judges are state officials following state sentencing guidelines in enforcing state laws. As we’ve seen with respect to the civil rights lawsuits against Vigo County with respect to jail conditions, local government can be left holding the bag despite their relative lack of control over jail populations.
The fiscal note says that this would cost the State treasury an additional $14.2 million per year.