Inmates generate revenue
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.