To the Taxpayers and Voters of Brule County:
For the past few months the Brule County Commission has been considering options for the Brule County jail.
Voters who recall the results of the 2002 bond issue may rightfully ask why.
An incomplete, and somewhat evasive answer is that the public emphatically indicated that they did not want
a new jail behind the courthouse, but did not indicate what action, if any, should be taken.
A complete answer requires explanation.
The jail was built in 1965. It has a stated capacity of 20 beds, but has held as many as 25 prisoners at one
time. On average 5-10 prisoners are held in the jail.
There is a jailer on duty 24 hours per day. The jail has an annual budget of about $210,000, most of which is
spent in Brule County, and which includes a payroll of about $127,000. The cost to run the jail, except for prisoner meals
and personal expenses, is essentially the same whether there are 25 prisoners in the jail or 1 or 2 prisoners.
The jail holds individuals arrested for violations in Brule County. The County also has contracts to provide
space to ten additional counties at a cost of $45 per day per prisoner. Federal prisoners are also housed at the jail.
In 2003 $116,762 was paid to Brule County for housing Federal and other out of Brule County prisoners.
These funds were used to pay jail employee salaries and other jail expenses. As the figures indicate, over half of the cost
of running our jail is paid from out of county sources.
The jail needs a new roof, heating system, air condition system and general updating. The layout does not comply
with current standards. As an example, all cells are currently on the second floor, there is only one stairway and no elevator.
Current standards require that the jail be handicap accessible, have two exits from the second floor and that the cell space
per prisoner be increased.
Because the jail met the standards in effect at the time the jail was constructed, we do not have to meet all
current standards. We are grand fathered now, but as we start remodeling we will lose this exemption and will have to,
and for the amount of money involved would want to, meet current regulations.
The cost for remodeling the existing jail building to conform to current codes and standards would be in the
range of $860,000 to $1,000,000, but because of the need to increase cell size, add stairways, etc., the remodeled jail could
only hold about 10 prisoners.
The cost to build an addition to the current jail sufficient to providing housing for about 40 prisoners is
estimated at $2,500,000.
We believe that at some point in the future, either because the jail is just worn out, or because a judge orders
that we either fix it or close it, that we will need to bring the jail up to code and current standards.
We employed Jim Rowenhorst, a corrections consultant to provide certain information to us. His computations
are based upon past inmate numbers and costs and project what he believes will occur over the next 15 to 18 years. A copy
of his study is available at the Auditors office.
Rowenhorst projects that if the jail were closed, the annual cost to transport to, and house Brule County prisoners
in, other counties would be $198,381 in 2005, increasing to $285,130 by 2020.
Rowenhorst projects that from 2010 to 2020 on average 9 to 10 prisoners per day will be Brule County prisoners
and that out of county prisoners could average 14 to 22 per day, if we have the room for them.
Rowenhorst also projects that if the capacity of the jail were increased, the revenue to the county from housing
out of county prisoners would increase to $259,000 in 2010 and to $405,720 in 2020.
Sheriff Miller reports that the Winner jail is under new management and is aggressively seeking to house prisoners.
They are sending a bus to Vivian to pick up Federal prisoners from Pierre and are charging $39 per day versus our $45. The
City of Winner is considering a $3,000,000 jail project, presumably to make money, as the City of Winner itself would have
very few, if any prisoners. Hughes and Stanley Counties recently opened bids for construction of a new $7,000,000 jail. A
new jail recently opened in Sioux Falls with a charge of $79 per day to house prisoners. The competition to house prisoners
appears to be heating up.
The complete answer to the question as to why we are now considering doing something with the jail is that if
we dont do something soon, we may run the risk of losing our jail business and the hundreds of thousands of dollars it has
provided to us.
These are the facts as we know them. Based upon these facts we saw these options.
- Do nothing. Let the chips fall where they may and leave any decisions up to future commissioners.
- Get out of the jail business entirely and contract to ship our prisoners back and forth to Pierre, Winner or Sioux Falls,
if they have the capacity.
- Get out of the business of providing jail services to other counties, plan to spend $800,000 to $1,000,000 to make the
necessary repairs to our jail and house only Brule County prisoners. We would potentially lose $100,000 to $400,000 annually
depending on the accuracy of Rowenhorsts projections.
- Stay in the jail business, build an addition to the current jail and aggressively fight to keep our share of the jail
We believe option 1 would be irresponsible.
Option 2 would result in no savings to taxpayers and would shift thousands of dollars of Brule County money
to Sioux Falls, Winner, Pierre or some other County. We would be at the mercy of other counties both as to availability of
cell space and cost of that space
Option 3 makes the best short-term sense but appears to us to be a bad long-term remedy. If the projections
are wrong and we have more Brule County prisoners than we would have beds, we will still be required to ship prisoners out
of the County.
Option 4 costs the most in the immediate short term, but if the projections are correct, it has the potential
to pay for itself in the long term.
Prior to a final decision, we want to hear from those most directly affected by our actions, i.e. the residents
and taxpayers of Brule County. Please give serious consideration to the issues raised in this letter.
We understand that there may be questions about this matter that we have not addressed.
If you wish to contact one of us to answer questions or hear comments, please feel free to do so.
We will set aside time at our next four meetings to discuss the issue with those who wish to attend.
If there is interest in having a meeting other than at the Courthouse to discuss the jail, we will try to accommodate
such a request..
If you are unable to attend a meeting, you may you submit your questions and comments in writing to the Brule
County Auditor and we will answer them to the best of our ability.
Copies of preliminary plans for the addition to the jail are available from the Brule County Auditor.
After we receive and consider your input, we will make a decision that hopefully will be seen by a majority
of our residents as reasonable, fairly made, and in the best long term interests of Brule County.
Brule County Commissioners: