Prim Asks for Jail Rental Extension

McHenry County Jail

McHenry County Jail

On the agenda of the McHenry County Board’s Law and Justice Committee on Monday is a resolution to allow McHenry County Sheriff Bill Prim to continue renting beds to other governmental agencies including

  • the U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE)
  • the United States Marshal Service

Here’s the explanation that committee members will read:

The capacity agreement with the United States Marshals and the U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs comes to an end in January of 2016.

This will leave several beds within the correctional facility empty.

County Administration and the Sheriff are requesting authorization and support in renting these beds to other governmental agencies including ICE and USMS in order to generate additional revenue for the County’s general fund.

The Sheriff is asking to keep the correctional officer count to 145 instead of the 138 established by the 2015 budget with the understanding that if the beds are not being utilized by other governmental bodies, seven positions will be eliminated.

The check in period for the review with the County Board will be in May of 2016.

At no time will the Sheriff take on more prisoners than what the current staffing level can handle.

The effect on human resources will be

Retain 7 employees for six more months to see what demand if any is requested of the empty beds.  If the demand is low, the seven positions will be eliminated.

The effect on the budget will be

Additional source of revenue.  The impact to savings on the budget is gained mostly through the elimination of 33 correctional officer positions.

The accompanying resolution does not have a set time period.
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Questions have been raised by County Board members as to whether the amount being paid is adequate to cover the necessary expenses.


Prim Asks for Jail Rental Extension — 18 Comments

  1. What does this mean?

    “This will leave several beds within the correctional facility empty.”

    The County Board should not roll over on such a simply, undefined request.

    Sheriff Prim has had plenty of time to evaluate the impact of unrented beds and to calculate how much rental income the Sheriff’s Department (and County) will lose.

    How many is “several”?






    And, does he mean several “more”?

    Hasn’t the rental count been dropping?

  2. Disappointing, Sheriff Prim, to say the least.

    I thought this contract ended in October and you agreed it would not be renewed.

    (1) Costs exceeded revenue;

    (2) Other states and facilities could house these prisoners at a lower cost.

    Money would be saved by eliminating correctional positions no longer necessary.

    Where is the leadership making the tough decisions?

  3. Many counties across the nation got caught up in “jail fever” several years ago, thinking the number of federal prisoners could only go up and up forever — like housing prices.

    They should never have engaged in such speculation with taxpayer money, and that opinion is not based on the outcome.

    It’s simply not the job of government to use taxpayer money on anything other than basic services.

    Nevertheless, Sheriff Prim did not CREATE this situation, he INHERITED it, and now he has to make the best deal possible.

    So, how should he decide whether or not to continue the contract with the federal government?

    Oddly enough, the decision does NOT turn on whether the project is losing money.

    Rather, the decision turns whether the County will lose LESS money by continuing the operation of the project than it will by closing it.

    That is, the decision is a function of whether marginal revenues exceed marginal costs.

    Prisons generally have both high fixed and variable costs.

    One high fixed cost is just paying for the building.

    Other high fixed costs include basic maintenance and utilities.

    On the other hand, operating the prison at ANY level incurs a high labor cost because the moment you go from zero prisoners to one, you have to have multiple guards 24/7.

    So, is Sheriff Prim’s recommendation the right one?

    Frankly, I don’t know because I’m not intimate with the numbers.

    But I would expect the Sheriff has done exactly the type of analysis I am suggesting.

    If so, then he would do well to make exactly this case to the public.

    And I hope the County Board will ask the right kinds of questions to verify that the Sheriff has done his homework.

    That’s their job: to ask the right kinds of questions and not simply to accept staff recommendations at face value.

    If it turns out to be the case that for this project, variable revenue indeed exceeds the variable costs, then continuing the contract may well be the better of two bad options.

  4. Really this is nothing more than sheriff Prim telling the county board the same stuff sheriff Nygren told them.

    All of you on this blog had a lot to say when it was that way now with new sheriff you are going to justify.

    I think that is hypocritical at best.

  5. The jail officers knew for years the bed rental program was losing money.

    You can’t run an almost empty hotel with the same staff as a full one and expect that you don’t lose money.

    But, it was worse than that.

    The “almost empty hotel” actually had more officers and twice as many supervisors.

    Simple math told the story.

    The lazy supervisors wanted the jail over-staffed to make their jobs easier and no one was ever brought to task.

    Nygren’s initial plan was a good one.

    Federal tax dollars paid around 9 million of the build out of the third floor and for a couple of years there was a definite revenue stream.

    Unfortunately, the big fella took his hands off the wheel and the jail was run into the ground.

    As the paying bed numbers went down the jail administration insisted on more officers, more supervisors and more overtime; all due to mismanagement.

    So, the new Sheriff needs to be very clear to the taxpayers about numbers as the past losses cannot be allowed to continue.

    The only thing you can count on government to do is to mismanage your taxpayer money.

  6. Actually, “Stand4Truth”, you are completely wrong.

    First, if I’m not mistaken, the ICE facility was built on Sheriff Nygren’s watch.

    There is a big difference between causing the mess and cleaning up someone else’s mess.

    Second, my own analysis of how to decide whether to use or close the facility has not changed.

    It is basic Accounting 201: Cost Accounting.

    Third, “raincheck” is disappointed with Sheriff Prim’s recommendation, so that contradicts your assertion that the writer complained about Nygren but supports the identical decision by Prim.

    Fourth, “Gus Philpot” is hardly cheering the decision either.

    So “all of us” commenting on this article are hardly hypocritical.

  7. “Nygren’s initial plan was a good one.”

    CP, I am going to disagree with you on that one in a fundamental way.

    It is not the job of government to gamble with taxpayer money.

    The job of the government is to provide a defined and limited set of services.

    This kind of fiscal disaster is exactly what happens when governments try to do more.

    From my viewpoint in the municipal bond business, I saw numerous counties do exactly the same thing McHenry County did, many is Spades, sweet-talked by clever bankers and construction firms.

    Lots of those counties defaulted on bonds.

    I saw community colleges sweet-talked into building DORMITORIES of all things, including down in Joliet.

    They paid more for a dorm room than houses cost in Joliet!

    Lots of those bonds defaulted, too, including Joliet Community College’s.

    It’s the same kind of reasoning that convinced the Lakewood board to support a Tax Increment District for the SportsPlex, as rummy a project as I have ever seen.

    Governments should stick to the knitting.

  8. Steve, while I respect your opinion and understand and stated that government is very good at wasting money, I would also state that the jail third floor will be needed by the county at some point and if the jail had been managed properly a revenue stream could have been utilized for the County’s benefit.

    I believe that those responsible for fiscal mismanagement should be held accountable.

    You don’t?

  9. As I said earlier, just because a supervisor wants to have 5 extra officers working a shift to make his or her job easier doesn’t make it right.

  10. CP, I don’t disagree with everything you say.

    I don’t have any knowledge of the exact staffing requirements, as you seem to.

    So I will gladly defer to you on that point.

    And perhaps, if better managed, the facility would have been cash flow positive, although I doubt that last point.

    Too may counties thought the same thing and lost money when the prisoner flow did not meet expectations.

    But I hold to my position that building out that facility to make money on the federal government was speculating with taxpayer money and a perfect example of how governments get into trouble doing things that are outside of their main purpose.

    And I disagree with your contention that the facility will be used “someday” so it was wise to build it when it was built.

    Governments should build what they need when the need is clear, not before.

    MCC wanted to build for 2040 based on wacky population projections.

    And the first step — the FIRST step — of that plan would nearly have doubled classroom space AND have build a giant health club.

    Lakewood wants to TRIPLE the size of their Village Hall, and the last proposal included a farmers’ market, a “promenade” and an amphitheater.

    Finally, I would return to the main point of my first post, which was that there is an objective way to determine if continuing to lease the facility is the best option, and I hope the Sheriff makes the proper objective case and that the County Board asks the right questions and asks for objective evidence.

    Having seen the Board roll over on road expansions when (1) population is declining, (2) road use statistics are flat, (3) formulae for measuring road capacity show such roads do NOT need to be widened (and no member of the County staff has ever shown the board such formulae, nor has any board member asked for them), and (4) the proposed cost is several times what every other state pays for identical expansions… Well, I am not hopeful.

  11. I can’t argue with what you say.

    Your points are well taken.

    My experience with government is that they are very good at one thing – flushing money down the toilet.

  12. This article is somewhat confusing.

    Are they talking about eliminating seven positions or thirty-three?

    Counting sick days and vacations, it takes nearly 5 full-time employees to staff one slot 24/7, so surely they could eliminate more than seven positions if they mothballed the entire floor.

  13. CP, it is clear from your writing that you gather facts before making decisions and that you think clearly.

    Any chance of convincing you to run for office?

  14. Thanks Steve, unfortunately I am not smart enough to know if you’re complimenting me or making fun of me.

    Either way, at this time there’s no way I can do that.

  15. Wilson

    To many like you justify philpot and the others do not justify there statements but what ou say is he inherited let him keep status.

    I say we know we have been loosing money even last year it was clear the budget is now being done and to allow it will be status quo thru the rest of the year.

    The budget is December 1 and the check in point is May by the gi should do anything different you are through the year

  16. CP: I’m not making fun of you, I am quite serious.

    It seems from your comments like you know your stuff and you think about the issues.

    I like people who use common sense.

    I know you said now is not the right time for you, but please think about it.

    When a board is run properly, volunteers who choose to serve shouldn’t spend more than three or four hours a week at the task.

    I know that because I have served.

    Now my job is to find good people, coach them in how to win an election and teach them how to think logically about the issues they will face and how to develop their own sources of independent information so they can be true trustees who serve the taxpayers and not the institutions on whose boards they sit.

    And remember this:

    not to run means to cede the positions to the cheerleaders for the status quo.

    We need people who ask the right questions.

  17. Wilson what do you know about winning elections just curious?

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