Medical costs main factor in housing prisoners

Some new policy changes may be following the new Richmond City Council as it pertains to public safety.
At the council’s first budget meeting Tuesday night, Public Safety Committee Chairman Bob Bond inquired about possibly housing Richmond prisoners at Ray County Jail. Currently, Richmond prisoners are taken to Lafayette County.
Police Chief Terri McWilliams said the city switched a number of years ago because of the cost factor – mainly medical.
McWilliams said Lafayette County has a policy that prisoners pay for their own medical expenses and if a prisoner is taken to the hospital they have to sign a piece of paper saying they are responsible.
McWilliams said Ray County did not have a medical staff and that standard procedure was to take them to the doctor.
“Their typical situation is if a prisoner got a stomachache or something like that they would take them to the emergency room,” McWilliams said. “I was starting to get bills across my desk for thousands of dollars. It was a huge cost savings.”
Ray County Presiding Commissioner Jeff Adams said the jail does have a medical staff and normal medications are included. He said if a prisoner does have to go to the hospital it is the responsibility of the city or entity that is housing the prisoner. Adams said they do not take prisoners to the doctor unless it’s an emergency.
“You don’t want a guy dying in the cell, but you don’t want them going on a joy ride,” he said.
McWilliams said transportation costs also factored into the decision to house in Lafayette County. She said she was being charged $7 per pick up or drop off.
Adams disagrees on the transportation costs. He said that transportation was always included in the prisoner fee and no extra charges were ever applied. Currently, Richmond must transport their own prisoners to and from Lexington.
McWilliams said the housing of prisoners is not that significant of a part of the police budget. Two years ago the city spent $2,255 and last year $1,825 on prisoner fees.
Lafayette County charges $30 a day for male inmates and $35 a day for female inmates. Ray County charges $35 for male inmates and $40 a day for female.
McWilliams said it’s a business deal and she has not been recently presented with an offer from the county.
“I think words gotten out into the community that it’s a big deal, it’s not at all. I don’t care where they are housed but I do know with taxpayer’s money I have to save as much money,” McWilliams said. “If I get a better deal, I’m going to jump all over it.”
Eastern Commissioner Allen Dale said the county would be willing to sit at the table with the city and negotiate price.
“We’re willing to listen,” Dale said.
Bond said Tuesday night that two more meetings have been scheduled to assess the city’s public safety budgets. The Public Safety Committee will meet on Monday to discuss the police and dispatch budgets at the police station and on Tuesday they will meet at the Fire Station to discuss the fire budget.

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