County Cuts Losses of Housing Federal Prisoners $10 a Day – Part 1

The debate on Tuesday about housing Federal prisoners in the McHenry County Jail started with Law & Justice Committee Chairman Sue Draffkorn trying to set the terms of debate.

With regard to the ten-year agreement with the Feds, Draffkorn pointed out that the resolution being considered did not increase it beyond October, 2015.

“We’re talking about getting $10 more until the end of the contract,” she said.

Next, Tina Hill, the woman with the gavel, called on Finance Chairman Mary McCann.

She did her best to blunt the criticism of her committee’s having been left out of the loop.

“We know the program is losing money,” she admitted.

Joseph Summerill's estimate of the costs and benefits of housing Federal prisoners in the McHenry County Jail.

Joseph Summerill’s estimate of the costs and benefits of housing Federal prisoners in the McHenry County Jail–$131.38 per day–is the best number anyone has come up with.  With approval of a $10 per day reimbursement increase, the County will be subsidizing the Federal government “only” $36.38 per day.

The resolution being considered, she said, “is strictly a revenue contract.  It’s going to bring us money on costs we’re already incurring, so, technically, [there was] no reason it had to come to Finance.”

Third up was Mike Walkup, who expressed the first exasperation at the Sheriff’s Office;

“I’m upset about not being able to get figures.”

County Administrator Peter Austin entered the discussion then.

“This agreement on rates is half of what you contracted with Joe Summerill to do.  If [the resolution] is approved, we owe him $10,000 more.”

He went on to explain how much the man who supplied the best figures of what county taxpayers are losing on the jail contract has been paid already before saying,

“I don’t know if we’re going to get an agreement with [Immigration and Customs Enforced (called ICE for short)].

Peter Austin

Peter Austin

“This means new money for all of out [Federal inmates].”

Relying to the thrust of Walkup’s expressed frustration about not being able to get cost information, Austin said,

“It’s not a simple question.  We have different kinds of inmates.”

Then, he pointed out,

“We have to have a jail for our own.  The costs go incrementally down.

“We haven’t forced ourselves to ask that question.”

Austin said that his staff had “filled out their forms.

“Is that what our true costs are?

“I don’t know.”

“Obviously, the increase of $10 per day only means we’re losing $10 less per day,” Diane Evertsen pointed out.

“Until we get a handle on how much it’s costing us, McHenry County residents continue to be penalized [by] paying for the privilege of housing these persons.

“The question we’re on–‘What is it going to take to get an honest answer?’–is ‘How much?'”

Evertsen pointed out that, if the County were making “widgets,” we’d know how much it cost to produce each type.

“Somehow we are unable to track” costs for jailing inmates.

She asked that administrators exert “more diligence in getting these figures.”

Chair Hill interjected at this point,

“You’re right.  We know we’re losing money.”

She did point out that the Feds gave the county $6.4 million to help pay for building out the empty third floor.

Hill concluded her comments with “…if we go forward [after the end of the current 10-year contract] and it’s a big ‘IF.'”

= = = = =
More tomorrow.


County Cuts Losses of Housing Federal Prisoners $10 a Day – Part 1 — 12 Comments

  1. Among the comments that are so frustrating are:

    Chrmn Hill saying “the Feds are giving us…” who in the H do you think the “Feds” are?

    they are US; the money for the 3rd floor jail space came out of OUR Federal pocket.

    And, as for Peter Austin’s “I don’t know.”

    It’s another non-answer from a grossly overpaid puppet.

    I understand Zinke made a similar statement to the County Board, about Federal grants, subsidizing the conversion of Sheriff’s cars to propane, characterizing grants as some nebulous source of $.

    Again, people, when politicians, or anyone for that matter, throw the word “grants” around, they’re talking about your and my (Federal) taxes, being thrown down the rat hole.

    Wake up, people, we taxpayers fund government – township, county, state and federal yet we still keep electing these big spenders.

    Remember the YES votes in November, and cross them off your list.

  2. It would take one of today’s sharp 5th Graders to figure out how big the losses are at the McHenry County Jail.

    You add up the expenses, and you subtract the income.

    Then you count noses from the booking records.


    By the way, the average number of prisoners daily is nowhere near 500.

    Nygren can’t calculate it for the $151,000/yr. he is paid.

    Zinke can’t add it up for the $145,000/yr. he is paid.

    Apparently, Sedlock can’t do it.

    Why can’t Pete Austin do it?

    Where’s the County Auditor?

    “I don’t know” is not an acceptable answer.

    It’s time for The People to rise up and shout, “Enough!”

  3. The county auditor?

    You mean Pam Palmer?

    I believe she, and Glenda Miller, are still both in hiding from the new Norwest Republican Central Committee…

    Seems they’re refusing to acknowledge the new elected officers and will not turn over the checkbook…

    Perhaps this too will require some auditing!

    Real class act, there Pam Palmer and Glenda Miller!

  4. It sure does seem that no one can determine what we are paying or getting paid to house these criminals.

    The elected officials that are supposed to know, don’t know.

    The sheriff’s dept can’t tell the taxpayers, they won’t give any straight answers.

    It’s time to shine the spotlight on the County Auditor.

    What is this position for anyway?

    I thought it was to audit the tax payer dollars.


    Anyone seen our county auditor lately?

    I mean she is paid by the tax payers too.

    We employ her, she should have answers for us since we pay her salary.

    Our County treasurer should know how much is going into the jail and how much we are receiving?

  5. How much are we losing each day per prisoner?

    I have not looked at the Sheriff’s numbers in detail, so, to be perfectly frank, I am completely ignorant about them.

    Of course, being ignorant doesn’t stop me from having an opinion.

    And my opinion is: don’t trust their calculation of the “cost per day per prisoner.”

    After my long fight with MCC over the expansion, I have learned that government administrations are perfectly willing to go to great lengths to hide their mistakes: to make up numbers, attribute expenses for one program to another, leave out overhead, and use very rosy forecasts of demand, even in the face of a long-term declining trend, so the projected denominator bears no resemblance to the real denominator, meaning the cost per prisoner is actually higher than they say and rising ever year that demand goes down.

    (I remember many years ago, when the Chicago Board of Ed included every employee with a teaching certificate in with their teacher numbers, even though many were administrators and never taught a single class. It greatly reduced the number of “administrators” and made their teacher:pupil ratio look much better than it was.)

    Is this true in the Sheriff’s case?

    We don’t know, and that’s not our fault.

    The reason we don’t know is because they’ve have been very careful not to release the information that would be needed to independently verify their claims.

    So, as I said, I’m ignorant.

    But that’s not my fault, and I sure as heck wouldn’t take it on faith that any numbers the Sheriff gives me are anywhere near accurate.

  6. Corrections Corp. and GEO Group (Wackenhut) are private for-profit companies which have bought many prisons from counties which cannot afford to support them.

    Has McHenry County received an offer to purchase its prison from either of these entities?

    If there was an offer, would the offer be directed to the Board, or the Sheriff, and would it be disclosed to the public for open discussion?

  7. As far as the Sheriff’s department goes it is still the Nygren/Zinke rule.

    They can still do a lot more damage until there is a new Sheriff in the County.

  8. For profit companies??

    Not a good option.

    Who says a county jail has to make a profit?

    Isn’t it one of the services we expect of our government?

    Isn’t that why we have governments in the first place?

    The cost of running the part of the jail that is contracted out to other entities should be a separate discussion from the cost of running the jail for what is needed for McHenry County.

  9. Did anyone mention at the Board meeting that the Administration in D.C. has removed ALL FUNDING for S.C.A.A.P.?

    How is ICE going to pay for the housing of illegal aliens when the feds have no budget for it?

    The taxpayers fund a lobbyist, did he / she not advise the County about this?

    We have a lot of incompetent boobs working in the Sheriff’s office and on the County Board!

  10. If nothing else the County and Sheriff’s Department can at least be transparent.

    McHenry County & the McHenry County Sheriff’s Department needs to release detailed usable financial information to the public about the McHenry County Jail and its operations.

    Usable is key.

    Not reams of paper.

    Electronic spreadsheets (meaning not paper).

    Searchable pdf’s (meaning not image pdf’s that are not searchable).

    Whatever information was given to Joseph Summerill should be provided to the public on an easy to find, easily identified, County website.

    Whatever information Joseph Summerill had access to should be explained to the public and if possible provided to the public.

    All information Joseph Summerill provided to the County and Sheriff’s Department should be released to the public.

    No doubt the County has all sorts of financial information related to this project that has not been released to the public.

    One wonders, what are they hiding.

    If they are not releasing the information, the are by default hiding the information.

    For Profit should be considered to keep costs, service, and quality in check.

    There is nothing inherently evil about for profit.

    Just like in government, some are good, some are not so good.

    No competition sometimes results in a situation where there is no incentive to keep costs in check or to improve quality.

    It seems ludicrous, but think of it if you could not choose amongst Target, Wal-Mart, or K-Mart, Aldi, Jewel, Dominicks, Walgreens, CVS, the Dollar Store, etc.

    Competition means Dominicks doesn’t give people what they want, it goes away.

    No competition means you have no choice, just one store.

    What if that one store was Dominick’s?

    Look at what happened to the American automotive industry when they became too complacent.

    Too many taxing districts in Illinois are just monopolies with money being skimmed off the top for pay, benefits, and early retirement.

    Now for the inevitable obvious disclaimers.

    Obviously there are some well run governmental units.

    Obviously something needs to happen in the situation of public company CEO pay and benefits being
    exponentially more than the working class.

    But a government solution to that would more likely cause more problems than it would solve.

    Back to the task at hand.

    The County and the Sheriff’s Department is withholding information from the public on this issue.

  11. Indeed.

    Let us see the cost figures for each part of the jail operation.

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