State pinches Oxford County Jail budget

by Daniel Hartill, staff writer SunJournal July 17, 2013

AUGUSTA — If the Oxford County Jail succeeds in expanding its mission to a full-time jail, it'll have to do it with part-time funding.Mark Westrum, chairman of the Maine Board of Corrections, said Tuesday that there will be no extra money in next year's budget to pay for expanded services.

"They'll have to get by with what they get now," Westrum said.

Could it be done?

"Absolutely not," Capt. Edward Quinn, administrator of the Oxford County Jail, said.

There are too many expenses, needed personnel and services to inmates that cost money for the budget to stay at its present $1.2 million. However, Quinn believes the state jail system would be spared a lot of money in expenses tied to the boarding of Oxford County inmates in other jails.

Currently, the Paris jail serves as a 72-hour holding facility. However, county commissioners have submitted a letter to the Board of Corrections requesting the change.

The move would follow a similar request by Franklin County.

Oxford County officials say they are tired of transporting inmates to other counties — most often Androscoggin County — rather than keeping them local and enrolling them into rehabilitation programs that serve the community.

In the first three months of 2013, Oxford County officials transported inmates 86 times and logged 6,868 miles, according to a draft U.S. Department of Justice report.

Those miles would sharply decrease if the county gets its way.

However, it will have a long process to endure. The Board of Corrections working group must first approve the change. Then, the matter must go to a hearing. And the full board must vote.

The county must also produce detailed budgets for the jail, including estimates for personnel, inmate food and health insurance costs.

Capt. Quinn said he's ready.

"I've got a book already started with what I can get for information for a major mission change," Quinn said. "My goal will be to show that we have a function within the system."

He may have a rough time getting the money, though.

The state Board of Corrections is asking all counties to submit flat-funded budgets for the coming fiscal year for the second year in a row.

In 2008, Maine spent $73.7 million on its jails. In 2009, funding rose by 2 percent to $75.2 million. In 2010, they were given a 2.6 percent hike and 2.4 percent the following year. The 2012 budget rose by 1 percent.

In 2013, spending crossed the $80 million mark with a rise of 0.6 percent.