Bill Prim’s Statement to the NW Herald on Jail Contract

Federal inmates plunged in April as the U.S. Marshals took their prisoners elsewhere.

Federal inmates plunged in April as the U.S. Marshals took their prisoners elsewhere.

When I saw the Northwest Herald had done a story on the possibility that the County might not renew its contract with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement people, I asked the Sheriff’s Department for the statement which was provided the paper.

Here it is:

This is only my fourth week as Sheriff, so I won’t be making any snap decisions on an issue as complicated and potentially costly as this one.

That being said, if a new agreement emerges following the expiration of the current one in October 2015, it will be dramatically different.

The current contract, finalized in 2005, committed the federal government to build a third floor on the jail.

Bill Prim

Bill Prim

In return, the County agreed to accept a certain number of inmates at a certain per diem rate for a period of 10 years.

That daily rate was increased slightly last year.

However, these two undertakings will both terminate automatically next October.

If, between now and then, we can assemble a new plan that makes sense to the County from both the economic and the jail operations standpoint, and there is federal buy-in to the concept, we may be able to move forward on a new agreement or agreements.

But we are a long way from that point, and there are many contingencies, not the least of which is federal immigration policy.


Bill Prim’s Statement to the NW Herald on Jail Contract — 8 Comments

  1. I appreciate Sheriff Prim’s honesty in saying he doesn’t have an answer yet.

    Figuring out the answer, though, is straightforward.

    It is an issue of marginal cost versus marginal revenue.

    I learned it in undergraduate accounting.

    The Sheriff and the County administration should be able to come up with numbers accurate enough for a decision quickly.

    Sunk cost is irrelevant; we can’t change the past.

    We’re stuck with the over-size prison, and now all we can do is make the best of it.

    Average cost is irrelevant; there is a certain fixed overhead that cannot be reduced.

    The only issue is marginal cost versus marginal revenue.

    If the marginal cost of keeping one prisoner one day is $80 and the County gets $90, then accept prisoners.

    Net gain: $10 per prisoner per day.

    If the marginal cost of keeping one prisoner one day is $100 and the County gets $90, then don’t accept prisoners.

    Net loss: $10 per prisoner per day.

    I hope the Sheriff and the County Administrator will make that information public very soon and provide adequate documentation to support their numbers.

    And I wish the Sheriff well in negotiating with the Feds.

  2. Another factor, supply vs demand.

    Any contract should be short term or terminable at will to allow the County to deal with changes in immigration policies of the Fed government.

  3. Along with any contract involving the federal government there are conditions which are generally buried in hundreds / thousands pages of federal statutes which apply to the contract.

    Those conditions result in costs which are almost always buried in the payment of salaries to public sector employees performing other duties.

    Also, consider that the current director of DHS has already stated that only illegal aliens who have been convicted of a felony will be held for deportation.

    Will Thompson prison not be used to house illegal aliens?

  4. The real problem that no-one has ever talked about is that the jail is grossly over-staffed.

    Even the CO’s union knows that.

    It’s been a joke for years.

    When you have at least 45 too many officers and another 5 supervisors too many your costs sky rocket.

    These past years, the jail administration was too lazy to figure out how to run the jail with less officers due to attrition etc so they just kept begging for more officers to cover empty cell blocks and replace their buddies that they promoted.

    If you don’t believe me, go ask the officers who work the jail.

    When pure laziness on the part of the jail administration is costing the taxpayers around 5 million a year, don’t you think the County Board should be asking questions?

    By the way, you paid the Deputy Chief at the jail more than many state governors.

  5. Is it possible that Jim Harrison was correct that Prim does not have the education to qualify as sheriff?

    The position of sheriff is more than just that of a cop.

    A sheriff sets policy, prepares and executes multimillion-dollar budgets, deals with complicated labor issues and much more, such as making simple decisions.

  6. I see no evidence that Mr. Prim lacks sufficient education.

    Figuring out the answer to the problem is straightforward, but it does require generating the appropriate numbers from a municipal accounting system that is not designed for that purpose.

    Further, this is only one of many issues he has to address, and it takes some time simply to get organized in a new office.

    That Mr. Prim would not already have addressed all issues in the Sheriff’s department after four weeks in office is understandable.

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