Montezuma County commissioners are threatening to stop accepting Colorado Department of Correction inmates at the county jail unless the state pays the full amount it is billed for housing them.
The state is currently paying the county $58.56 per day for DOC inmates housed in the county jail despite being billed $75 per day.
“To me that’s an unfunded mandate,” Commissioner Keenan Ertel said Tuesday during a the commissioners’ weekly meeting.
Montezuma County Sheriff Steve Nowlin presented his monthly report showing the Montezuma County Detention Center housed seven DOC inmates for a total of 98 days in October and was paid $5,738.88 by the state.
The county would have received $7,350 if the state paid the $75 per day rate charged by the county.
“We just want the state to pay the same amount we bill everyone else,” said Commissioner Jim Candelaria – noting the towns of Dolores and Mancos as well as Dolores County all pay Montezuma County’s rate of $75 per day to house their inmates in the Montezuma County Detention Center.
Candelaria also said the rate charged by the county for housing inmates should be adjusted annually for inflation to ensure costs for housing inmates are fully recovered.
Commissioners discussed crafting and sending a letter to the Department of Corrections that informs the agency it will no longer accept DOC inmate holds at the county jail as of Jan. 1 unless the state begins paying the full $75 per day it is charged. The letter could be sent as soon as next week.
Montezuma County Attorney John Baxter said a state statute sets the minimum compensation for housing state inmates at $58.56 per day, but there is no legal prohibition that prevents the state from paying more than the minimum.
Nowlin said a good deal of the billable days for state inmates come when former DOC inmates violate terms of parole and are rearrested and placed in the county jail.
“We’re holding people on parole holds for as long as month before the parole board decides what to do with them,” Nowlin said.
Nowlin added that the jail is at capacity almost every day, and that increases maintenance needs. The county, he said, also must begin planning to expand the jail.
In October, the jail exceeded its stated maximum number of 104 inmates for all but two days, Nowlin said.
According to statistics provided by Nowlin, the county jail handled 3,428 inmate nights in the jail in October.