Scott supervisors get update on inmate count, work program

Holly Viers • Oct 6, 2019 at 1:30 PM

GATE CITY — The Scott County Board of Supervisors got two pieces of good news at its Wednesday meeting: The county’s inmate count at the Duffield Regional Jail has decreased, and the number of participants in the new inmate work program has increased.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Andrew Johnson gave an update on the inmate count, while Jessica Keith, Justin Venable and Shannon Earwood spoke about the work program, called SCOTT Service. Since last month, SCOTT Service has gained 10 participants, while the number of inmates the county is billed for has fallen from 217 to roughly 162, Johnson said.

An ongoing issue

The BOS has struggled to keep jail costs down for many months. The county currently pays $41.13 per day for each inmate with charges only in Scott County; it also pays a portion of the cost for inmates with charges in both Scott and one of the surrounding localities: Lee, Wise and the city of Norton, all of which also house inmates in the Duffield facility.

This fiscal year, the BOS allocated more than $3.4 million for the jail based on a projected average daily population of 184 inmates, according to County Administrator Freda Starnes. To cover that expense and balance the budget, the BOS raised taxes and took money out of its general fund.

Getting the numbers straight

At last month’s BOS meeting, Johnson said it wasn’t clear how the jail calculates its average daily inmate population each month, which determines how much the county has to pay. Last month, one report from the jail stated there were 255 Scott County inmates, while another report said there were 217.

After that, a meeting was held with jail staff to determine the calculation formula. The 255 number was explained as being the headcount of inmates with charges in Scott County, while the 217 number was the amount the county was billed for. Since then, both numbers have decreased significantly.

“(I) got an updated number on Oct. 1 at about 2:30 p.m.,” Johnson said. “The number of inmates with Scott County charges — that would be actual headcount, physical bodies in the Duffield Regional Jail — was 194 … and the number of inmates for billing purposes, actually billed to Scott County, was 161.83.”

Success with SCOTT Service

The county’s decreasing inmate count is due partly to SCOTT Service, an alternative sentencing program for nonviolent offenders who would otherwise be incarcerated. Program participants are allowed to stay in their homes, rather than in the jail, and work off their sentence by completing community service projects.

Since last month, the program has grown from 24 to 34 participants, Keith said. Participants have completed several projects in the community, including weed-eating around the Twin Springs baseball field at Keith Memorial Park, painting Dumpsters at the Nickelsville solid waste center, pressure washing beside the courthouse, re-graveling at Bush Mill and picking up tires in the Nottingham and Manville communities, Venable said.

So far, the program’s jail cost savings equals $53,427.87, up from $17,274.60 last month, Venable said. Labor cost savings are between $45,000 and $50,000, for a total savings between $98,427.87 and $103,427.87.

“Everybody is thankful (and) working hard. … It’s going very well,” Venable said.

To suggest a community service project for SCOTT Service participants, call (276) 386-2576 or visit www.facebook.com/scottserviceprogram.

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