County will open all three pods at new jail

Published 7:17 am Thursday, March 25, 2010

After researching the costs of housing female prisoners elsewhere, the Mower County Board of Commissioners unanimously decided to keep the female prisoners at the new Mower County Jail and Justice Center.

The talks were mainly focused on costs, as some employees believed it would save the county money to send female inmates to another jail and leave one of three pods at the new jail empty.

The new jail is separated into three pods in the jail: a male general population unit, a male special management unit and a female special management unit. Each of the special management units has space for about 40 inmates, and the general population pod has space for 48, Mower County Coordinator Craig Oscarson said.

If jail total jail population is 88 inmates or more, then the jail would be required to hire additional jailers to meet the demand.

However, Oscarson said the biggest reason to open the female pod is the cost of work release. Even if the female inmates are at another jail, the county would still be required to let inmates that are able out on work release. Oscarson said it’d be the county’s responsibility to provide transportation to their jobs, resulting in the county paying for as many as eight round trips a day.

“That’s where the boarding cost blows it out of the water,” Oscarson said.

With the amount of transportation involved, Oscarson said it appeared more cost effective to open the pod rather than board female inmates elsewhere.

The jail’s employee schedules will also make it so there’s very little overtime, Oscarson said. Jailers won’t work a set shift. They’ll work rotating shifts to fill the needs, meaning an employee could work nights one month and days the next.

Oscarson said the jail officials are looking to board female inmates from other jails, and other area counties have already expressed interest.

The county’s finance committee looked at growth statistics concerning female inmates in the county, state and nation. According to Oscarson, the number of female inmates in jails is growing across the country.