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County sheriffs protest to losing DOC inmates

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OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla._Sheriffs and county officials from across the state told lawmakers at the State Capitol Tuesday that they do not want state inmates taken out of their jails.

The new State Director of Corrections has already started moving some of those inmates to vacant beds at work centers and halfway houses. However, doing so means counties can lose thousands of dollars in state funding to house them.

Jails can only get so much from money from the county through taxes, the rest has to be made up another way. Housing those DOC inmates has been that way for most of the state's counties, especially Jackson County where Sheriff Roger Levick is trying to fund a jail that costs $2.2 million per year to operate.

"It'll cost us somewhere in the neighborhood of half a million a year in revenue, basically it will cripple our operations there," said Sheriff Levick.

The sheriff says they have already lost 50 inmates in the last two weeks and moving these inmates aren't just a hit to the county budget, but the state as well because the cost to house an inmate at $27 a day is cheaper than the other options.

"You can manage money better on a local level. I don't have the luxury to having the assistant's assistant to the assistant. Everybody in my office works and when you keep the money local it is a lot more efficient of management," explained Sheriff Levick.

Most people wonder how much $27 a day really helps, especially since the cost of housing an inmate isn't free. Tillman County Sheriff, Bobby Whittington, says it isn't enough to get rich off of but enough to help run a jail.

"We're keeping our doors open, we're able to meet the mandates for the jail staff and we will be able to keep deputies out on patrol," said Sheriff Whittington.

Whittington is running a jail that cost $1.3 million a year to operate and is looking at losing between $65,000 and $130,000 a year and how to make up for that loss is hard to plan for.

"There 'snot much planning that you can do, if we lose that money we are looking at layoffs," said Sheriff Whittington.

It's also important to look at what it would cost the state to make the change. The Oklahoma Sheriff's Association says moving inmates from county jails to these other options can cost between $35 and $40 an inmate each day.

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