As county jails across the state of Kentucky struggle to survive in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, some while battling the virus itself, jailers must prepare themselves for another potential loss of funding that comes from the top level of Kentucky’s government.

During Governor Andy Beshear’s daily COVID-19 press briefing on Wednesday, J. Michael Brown, secretary of the Governor’s executive cabinet, announced that his staff was currently in the process of screening an additional 700 Kentucky state inmates for early release.

“We have released right at 1,200 inmates from our previous round of commutations and we’re currently in the process of screening another 700 inmates to see if they qualify based on those criteria,” said Secretary Brown.

The list of medically vulnerable inmates who could be considered for sentence commutation is still being compiled. Those eligible for this second round of COVID-19 releases must be over the age of 65 and near the end of their sentences.

Brown added that there are currently 379 active inmate cases and 53 active staff cases in Kentucky correctional facilities. A total of 432 inmates and 69 staffers have recovered. In total, eight inmates have died due to complications from COVID-19.

The Webster County Jail is in the midst of budget cuts and layoffs in order to help the Dixon-based facility survive the current state of affairs. Since the crisis began, the jail has seen its average number of inmates drop from 240 to just 150.

With the state reimbursing jails at a rate of $31.34 per day per state inmate, that constitutes a loss of around $82,809 in funding per month tot the local facility.

In addition, the state has placed a restriction on the transfer of inmates from one facility to another, meaning the Webster County Jail is no longer allowed to take in inmates from surrounding counties, which pay the facility $30 per day per inmate.

Before budget cuts and layoffs went into place last week, the Webster County Jail was facing a $1.2 million shortfall for the current fiscal year, which ends June 31, 2021. Those cuts didn’t completely fix the issue, but officials hoped that it would help them hold out until things began to get back to normal.

How or if the new round of early releases will affect the local jail is currently uncertain. The J-E hopes to get more information from Jailer Morgan McKinley before next week’s edition of the newspaper hits stands.

Some jails, such as the Union County Jail, are already exploring plans to close their 40 inmate jail permanently. Webster County officials hope they can bring those inmates to Dixon. At the out of county rate, that would mean approximately $36,000  per month in additional funding to the Webster County Detention Center.

 

Reach MATT HUGHES

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