Sheriff: No layoffs planned for detention centers

Even though Jefferson County Sheriff Gerald Robinson did not get all the money he requested to operate the adult and juvenile detention centers, he says cutting staff at the two facilities to save funds is not an option.

“If I had to give up my salary to keep all our people I would,” Robinson said. “I’ve got an excellent staff and they work very hard doing what they’re doing.”

During a special meeting of the Quorum Court on Tuesday night, the county’s legislative body approved a 2013 budget of $1.33 million for the juvenile center and $3.512 million for the adult jail.

Robinson had asked for $1.83 million for the juvenile center and $4.4 million for the adult jail.

“We’re all right on the staff at the juvenile center but we’re understaffed at the adult jail,” Robinson said. “I have no plans to go to the Quorum Court and ask for more people. We’re just going to be doing more with less.”

The Quorum Court turned down Robinson’s requested budgets because, according to Public Safety/Emergency Services Committee Chairman Herman Ginger, “they exceeded revenue guidelines.”

“We can’t spend money we don’t have,” Ginger said.

Robinson said the revenue problems stem from a declining tax base that has resulted from a declining population.

“We’re just going to have to find ways to make up the revenue,” he said. “We’re going to continue to be frugal and run a very tight ship.”

He said both the adult and juvenile detention centers are looking at ways “to generate more revenue,” including increasing the number of federal prisoners held at the adult jail and Department of Youth Services prisoners held at the juvenile detention center.

According to the intake log at the adult jail, there were 13 federal prisoners being held Friday afternoon, including 10 that were booked in Thursday afternoon.

Lee Johnson, administrator of the juvenile center, said Monday that the Department of Youth Services has agreed to send more detainees to Jefferson County. The juvenile center’s DYS detainee population has increased from 11 to 22 in one month.

In addition, Robinson said both the adult and juvenile facilities are generating revenue from the telephone system for inmates and the commissary.

“We’ve also signed a contact with the state highway department that will pay us to mow grass along the Martha Mitchell Expressway,” Robinson said.

That contract could generate up to $50,000 this year.

During the Quorum Court meeting Tuesday, County Judge Dutch King described the budgets as “a starting point.” Robinson agreed.

“They’re not enough,” Robinson said of the two approved budgets, “but we’ve got to start somewhere.”

He estimated that the approved budgets would “take us five or six months down the road,” depending on a number of factors, including the population of the two facilities, food costs and utility costs.