Proposed Jail Bills

By: Courtney Lassiter
By: Courtney Lassiter

Legislation up for debate in the Senate this week may require inmates to be tested for AIDS.

Senate Bill 201 would require state inmates to be tested 30 days before their release and spouses be notified of the results.

Warren County Jailer Jackie Strode said he thinks the bill is another unfunded mandate.

"If this becomes a mandate, then we have to do it but who would do it? Who pays? Who comes to the jail," Strode asked.

Strode said Kentucky spends $120 million a year housing inmates. He said giving an AIDS test would be an added cost to an already tight budget.

House Speaker Jody Richards is trying to alleviate the budget problem at county jails with House Bill 187.

The proposed bill approved last week in the House imposes lower medical care rates for prisoners.

It also restricts insurance companies' ability to end coverage once an inmate has been incarcerated.

"These inmates aren't in jail because they've committed a county ordinance or city ordinance they are in jail because they violated state law," Strode said and he also believes the state should step up and pay for part of the cost.

"One of our bills we are proposing is over a four year period of time frame the state would reimburse the county for what's called 'credit for time served,'" Strode said.

Strode estimates the time an inmate spends waiting in jail adds up to about one million dollars a year.

"Warren County tax payers have footed the bill and haven't gotten anything back from it," Strode said.

The jail is responsible for care like medical, food, clothing and electricity costing about $30 an inmate for just one day.

"We want a four year time frame which is two budget cycles, 25 percent one year, 50 percent the next, 75 percent the third and 100 percent after fourth year," Strode stated.

That provision to House Bill 187 would provide financial relief county jailers like Jackie Strode are hoping for but the bill is headed to the State House of Representatives and has been revised several times without any language of reimbursement from the state.

What the bill does say, however, is a task force made up of house and senate members will review the court system and penal code and make recommendations for improvements on funding issues by December 1, 2007.

"We are hoping Senator Williams will behind this and get it out so we can get these put in place to take some of the burden off taxpayers," Strode said.

Click here for more on the "watered down" House Bill and for the press release from the House of Representatives, click here.

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