Commissioners approve $2.6 million to Sheriff's Office

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The Sedgwick County Detention Center has a problem that finally reached a financial breaking point. The Sheriff’s office said the costs to operate the facility reached new highs that couldn’t be sustained under the current budget.

“This is a spike, this is not a normal trend we’ve been seeing,” Sheriff Jeff Easter said. “Crime in general is up because of methamphetamine. That drives those folks to commit those crimes.”

Commissioners approved an additional $2.6 million to help fund the department, because Easter’s deputies are overseeing the welfare of a lot more inmates now.

More inmates inside the facility requires more meals and more deputies. Which all costs money.

The department said it’s already spent about as much on food for inmates in nine months this year, compared to all of 2018. The fact was similar when it analyzed medical costs and on average, there are 100 additional inmates incarcerated compared to averages last year.

The department stressed it has tried to cut costs, and even commissioners said they couldn’t remember a time when the sheriff asked them for additional money in the middle of the year.

“There’s kind of a perfect storm that happened,” said Commission Chair David Dennis. “We’ve done modifications to the jail, we’ve got more prisoners than we usually do, food costs go up a number of folks outside that we’re housing, so it’s going to cost us.”

Easter said the money approved by the commission Wednesday will help – but said a long term change in the system will be the permanent fix.

“Long term, if we send you to treatment, we might have a chance then to see some of those folks take to treatment, become productive citizens and not do these crimes,” he said.

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