Lincoln County jail revenue down due to Covid-19
Sheriff unable to rent empty beds to other counties
Last updated 7/1/2020 at 9:37pm
DAVENPORT – The Lincoln County Jail has experienced an estimated quarter million dollar loss in revenue due to restrictions related to the Covid-19 virus, as the jail has not been able to rent out their extra beds to other counties.
Sheriff Wade Magers said he estimates the jail has lost upwards of $250,000 in revenue over the last 90 days by having to turn away bed rental from other counties due to the virus. The annual jail budget, which includes money for county dispatch services, ranges from $1.3 million to $1.5 million.
“We are usually able to rent our extra bed space to other counties who have an overflow in their jails. This creates revenue that helps support our jail,” Sheriff Magers explained.
“But with the virus restrictions, we couldn’t bring in inmates from outside due to health concerns.”
The Lincoln County Jail regularly rents jail beds to neighboring counties, the Washington State Department of Corrections, tribal governments and Fairchild Airforce Base. The day rate per bed averages $65 per day. When full, the jail can house up to 30 inmates. At present, the jail population hovers around eight.
While the revenue impact to the jail has been significant, managing health concerns for inmates and staff has not overly disrupted daily operations. Jail staff are wearing gloves and masks and conducting extra cleaning. Inmates are offered masks to wear while in the jail and do wear masks during hearings with judges.
Discretion is being used when deciding if an offender needs to be jailed and deputies are not currently jailing for lesser, non-violent offenses, according to Magers.
“We have quit putting people in jail for misdemeanor offenses like suspended licenses. We are still jailing for more serious offenses, but there has been a hiatus for some of the lesser offenses,” he noted.
Magers said turning away inmates from other counties has created a “lull” in the jail capacity and he is concerned over the impact this may have on the sheriff’s office’s bottom line.
“We have 13 road deputies and 11 deputies in the jail. Our office is supported by the revenue that comes into the county from sales tax and property tax, but both of those revenues are down right now,” he related. “Renting jail bed space helped us offset some of our costs, but we have lost that money as well.”
The final impacts caused by the Covid-19 virus have yet to be determined as state officials are still calling for lockdowns and restrictions. No matter when they are lifted, Magers said he believes financial relief for Lincoln County will likely be needed.
“There will need to be some money to backfill the lost revenue,” Magers said. “It will likely have to be federal money trickled down through the states.”