(KCPW News) County jails could soon receive more money for housing state prisoners. A bill passed by the House of Representatives yesterday raises the reimbursement rate from 42 percent to 50 percent of the average state daily incarceration rate, and gives counties that sign a permanent contract with the state a 70 percent reimbursement rate. Legislators discussed the $14 million cost of the bill, questioning whether the Executive Appropriations Committee would approve it. Bill Sponsor Representative Mike Noel clarified how the bill would be funded.
"If we have no money, it would require that the Department of Corrections come up with the money, in other words we have to fund it if it passes. The reality is we don't have the money. Let's pass the bill so that we recognize that we are getting a great deal from the counties and the municipalities and it does actually in the long run, if we keep this process in place, it saves the state money," Noel said.
Lawmakers raised concerns about the strain the state is putting on county jails by funding them at such a low rate. Representative Mel Brown even expressed concern over prison breaks due to inadequate funding. He said the issue needs to be addressed now.
"If we don't address this issue upfront, and deal with it responsibly, we are going to end up in a real crisis with these counties. And they are providing a good service for us. I'd hate to have to take all those inmates back, build new correctional facilities to put them in, the costs would be extremely high," Brown said.
The bill passed unanimously and will be sent to the Senate for debate. Representative Noel is also sponsoring a bill to require the Division of Finance to pre-pay county jails for housing inmates based on the number of inmates they had in the prior year.