FARMINGTON, Maine — Franklin County inmates will be in for a much shorter ride now if they don’t bail within 72 hours after arrest. In May, transport officers started driving inmates two hours one-way to other correctional facilities and jails.
Somerset County Jail officials have reopened a section of its Madison facility to accept inmates from the Franklin County jail in Farmington after reaching a funding agreement with the state Board of Corrections on Tuesday, Franklin County Sheriff Dennis Pike said Friday.
Somerset County stopped taking inmates from outside its area in May after the state was behind on its fourth quarterly payment for 2011 and payment for the first quarter of 2012 and nearly the second quarter, Pike said.
“It was just a tragic situation,” he said.
The agreement reached Tuesday at an emergency meeting of county sheriffs and the state Board of Corrections provides $1.12 million annually to Somerset County for use of available beds through the state board’s investment fund and reimburses the county about $281,400 for expenses in 2011, according to the Morning Sentinel.
The $1.12 million is the annual amount Somerset County is supposed to receive from the Board of Corrections under the 2008 jail consolidation act, the newspaper states.
Somerset County Sheriff Barry Delong was not available for comment Friday.
In July 2009, the jail in Farmington became a 72-hour holding facility instead its previous full-time jail status due to state jail reform.
Franklin County Jail Manager Doug Blauvelt said previously he spent much of his day trying to find a bed for inmates that needed to be transported to another facility.
The jail’s transport officers were on the road at least four hours a day for a transport, not including processing time, and they had to work beyond their scheduled hours, Pike said.
It was very depressing for those in custody and their families because many could not make the trip for visits, he said. “It wasn’t fair for family members,” Pike said.
It wasn’t fair to defense attorneys who may have had to make the four-hour trip to see their clients, he said.
Not only that there is an inherent safety risk when inmates and an officer are on the road for so long, he said.
On top of that it is costly, he said.
“It increased the overtime budget considerably,” Pike said.
More than 20 of the county’s inmates were in other jails or prisons and transport officers needed to go pick them up to take them to doctors and court appointments and return them to the facility they were staying at.
Franklin County jail staff started bringing inmates back to Madison this week.
Some of the inmates are still in other facilities. The transport van only carries six, so multiple trips will need to be made, Pike said.
Eventually they will all be closer to home.
“There could be some delay if Somerset doesn’t have enough beds open,” he said.