In­mates gen­er­ate rev­enue

The Sentinel-Record - - FRONT PAGE - DAVID SHOW­ERS

The cash bal­ance for the fund that re­ceives com­mis­sions from in­mate com­mis­sary sales and phone calls has grown by more than 500 per­cent since the Gar­land County De­ten­tion Cen­ter at 3564 Al­bert Pike Road opened in June 2015.

Ac­cord­ing to Gar­land County Sher­iff’s Of­fice Fund monthly bal­ance state­ments, the Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Fa­cil­ity and Equip­ment Fund had a $298,683 bal­ance at the end of last month, a more than five­fold in­crease from the $55,102 bal­ance at the end of Au­gust 2015.

The Fi­nance Com­mit­tee of the Gar­land County Quo­rum Court ad­vanced an or­di­nance last week ap­pro­pri­at­ing $50,000

to the Com­mis­sary Fund, in­creas­ing the $185,000 the quo­rum court had ini­tially al­lo­cated for com­mis­sary sup­plies in 2017.

The jail pur­chases sup­plies from its com­mis­sary ven­dor, Trin­ity Ser­vices Group, and is re­im­bursed by funds held in in­mate com­mis­sary ac­counts. Trin­ity Ser­vices Group re­mits a 42-per­cent com­mis­sion to the jail, the pro­ceeds from which are trans­ferred to the Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Fa­cil­ity and Equip­ment Fund.

“The rea­son we’re ask­ing for that is be­cause the in­mate count is up,” Sher­iff Mike McCormick told the Fi­nance Com­mit­tee, ex­plain­ing why the ex­tra money is needed. “They’re buy­ing more items.”

The jail is re­quired to pro­vide in­mates with only ba­sic items, such as tooth­brushes and tooth­paste. They are re­spon­si­ble for pur­chas­ing snacks, socks, T-shirts, toi­letries and other items. The county Fi­nance Depart­ment said com­mis­sary sales net­ted a $78,471 com­mis­sion last year.

The county’s con­tract with Se­cu­rus Tech­nolo­gies pro­vides for a 65-per­cent com­mis­sion on in-state calls in­mates place from phone ter­mi­nals in the jail’s hous­ing units. Out-of-state calls and calls to at­tor­neys and bail bonds­men don’t gen­er­ate any in­come for the jail.

The Fi­nance Depart­ment said in­mate phone calls ac­counted for a $82,953 com­mis­sion last year.

A sum­mary pro­vided by the sher­iff’s depart­ment showed the Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Fa­cil­ity and Equip­ment Fund ended last year with a $211,221 bal­ance, clear­ing $134,676 in net in­come af­ter $55,088 in ex­penses were deb­ited from $189,764 in rev­enue. The $35,058 paid to PNC Equip­ment Fi­nance for the jail’s ra­dio lease agree­ment was the largest ex­pense, fol­lowed by $9,584 to Har­ris Corp. for new ra­dios.

The Leg­is­la­ture clas­si­fied the Sher­iff’s Of­fice Fund as an agency fund in 2015, ef­fec­tively ex­empt­ing it and the Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Fa­cil­ity and Equip­ment Fund from quo­rum court over­sight and the nor­mal county claims process. Act 741 of 2015 also di­rected com­mis­sions from com­mis­sary sales to the Sher­iff’s Of­fice Fund.

Com­mis­sary com­mis­sions were not re­quired to go into the fund prior to Jan. 1, 2016.

Ac­cord­ing to the As­so­ci­a­tion of Arkansas Coun­ties, the sher­iff’s depart­ment or ven­dor sends a com­mis­sion check to the county trea­surer’s of­fice. The trea­surer cred­its the money to the Sher­iff’s Of­fice Fund, which is used to ac­count for as­sets the trea­surer’s of­fice holds on be­half of the sher­iff’s depart­ment.

All com­mis­sions from com­mis­sary sales and in­mate phone calls are then trans­ferred to the Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Fa­cil­ity and Equip­ment Fund. Per statute, up to 75 per­cent of the pro­ceeds have to be al­lo­cated for main­te­nance and op­er­a­tion of county de­ten­tion cen­ters.

The new law also added ve­hi­cles, weapons and other sher­iff’s depart­ment equip­ment to the list of au­tho­rized ex­penses. Train­ing, pur­chas­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions equip­ment or im­prov­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions fa­cil­i­ties were the only au­tho­rized uses prior to the new law.

The Gar­land County Sher­iff’s Depart­ment said no cap­i­tal items, such as ve­hi­cles, have been pur­chased with com­mis­sions from com­mis­sary sales or in­mate phone calls.

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