Contract prisoner numbers drop
While there have been no contract prisoners in the Washington County Jail since Dec. 30, Washington County Sheriff Jerry Dunbar feels this is an annual slowdown and expects contract prisoners will return mid-January.
Dunbar said it is typical to see the numbers of inmates in the jail drop just before Christmas and then pick up again after the holidays. He said that most of the contract inmates the jail houses for other counties come from Johnson County. He also said that many come from Henry County.
“I hope we see a few more in mid-January,” he said. “It all depends on what the judges are doing, if the county has space and what cases are going on.”
Since the jail opened, it has been housing prisoners that other counties did not have space for. He said that the cost of housing the prisoners is negotiated between counties based on the number of prisoners housed and ranges between $45 and $50 per prisoner per day.
He said for a while Henry County, which has an eight-bed jail, was housing 15 prisoners in Washington County.
Dunbar said Johnson County houses the majority of its overflow prisoners in Muscatine County, with Washington County mostly getting the female overflow. He said that recently Johnson County cleared space in its communications center, which is now used to house additional prisoners.
“It did hurt us when they did that,” he said.
Dunbar said Henry County has a new sheriff whom he plans to speak with soon about housing overflow prisoners. He said up until now, Washington County had housed all of Henry County’s overflow prisoners.
A new deal that allows federal prisoners to be kept in the Scott County Jail, which is in Davenport where the federal court is, has hurt the number of federal prisoners that are being housed in Washington County Jail, Dunbar said. He said that many of the other districts hadn’t had many overflow prisoners.
Dunbar said recently the jail reported since housing contract prisoners for other counties, it had earned over $2 million. The money received from other counties for housing overflow prisoners, he believes, goes into the Washington County general fund. Dunbar believes the money is used to service the loan that built the $5 million jail.