Pratt County Jail has to send inmates out of county for first time in history

By: Parrish Alleman Email
By: Parrish Alleman Email

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Pratt, Kan. -- The Pratt County Jail was built with 30 beds and right now they are overcapacity. For the first time in the county's history not all of their inmates are sleeping in Pratt county.

In his 12 years as sheriff, Vernon Chinn says the Pratt County Jail, which can house 30 inmates, is usually about half full.

“Starting in January that came to an abrupt halt,” Sheriff Vernon Chinn said.

“The lowest we've been in several months is 22 and the highest we've been is 38,” Sheriff Chinn said.

Because they're over capacity, Sheriff Chinn had to do something no Pratt County Sheriff ever has.

"For the first time in the history of the Pratt County Sheriff's office, we've had to take inmates out of county to house them,” Sheriff Chinn said.

Four inmates are staying in Ford county right now. The sheriff says if he's forced to keep sending inmates out of county, it's going to get very expensive.

"I can say easily it's going to increase our budget $100,000 a year,” Sheriff Chinn said.

Sheriff Chinn says they haven't seen an increase in the number of people arrested. He believes their cases are just taking longer to go trial. Plus, many are sent back to jail to serve their sentence, not to prison.

No matter what's causing it, he says if they're numbers continue to grow the only solution is a bigger jail.

"Right now I'd be afraid to recommend anything but double the size we are,” Sheriff Chinn said.

An expansion would be several years in the future, so Sheriff Chinn says for now he'll keep looking for open spots in other jails to send Pratt county inmates.

There are already some changes planned for the Pratt county jail, including adding more detention officers in January. There are also plans to add 10 more beds in the next few years. The sheriff says even with those changes, if the trend continues, they'll be understaffed and overcrowded.

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