Despite a continually shrinking inmate population, the county will continue to fund off-site housing for the Carroll County Sheriff's Office.
The Board of Commissioners on Thursday approved a request to provide $62,100 to maintain a program that sends inmates from the Carroll County Detention Center to a detention center in Allegany County.
"Our inmate population is trending down," said Warden George Hardinger. Currently, he said, the center is housing 175 inmates — the lowest number of inmates he said he can recall in his 16 years as warden. But that does not eliminate the need for the off-site program, he said.
The maximum-security Carroll County Detention Center, which was built in 1968 and has seen a number of additions since that time, is capable of housing 287 inmates and employs 92 correctional officers and 15 civilian employees, according to the detention center website.
But demographics and special circumstances can affect the number of inmates the facility can hold at one time.
When the county first began housing inmates in Allegany County about two years ago, the number of inmates was rising, Hardinger said, and many of those inmates relocated were females.
Many of those inmates who are sent to Allegany today, Hardinger told the commissioners, are inmates who cannot be housed in the Carroll detention center for reasons that can include inmates having a relative who works in the jail or multiple inmates who are testifying against each other.
In order to relocate an inmate into off-site housing, Hardinger said, the move must be assessed and approved both by Sheriff Jim DeWees and by the warden.
While the $62,100 accounts for about 10 inmates who must be housed off-site, the county is housing only four inmates in Allegany County at this time, Hardinger said.
But there are other benefits to having the option of sending inmates elsewhere beyond special circumstances, he said. For example, when major repairs are needed at the aging facility, inmates may need to be relocated temporarily to allow maintenance workers to complete the work.
"Things always need to be repaired," he said. "It's almost impossible to do that when you're at capacity or above."
The money to fund the off-site housing is earmarked in county's reserve for contingencies, said Ted Zaleski, director of the county's Department of Management and Budget. When the commissioners approve a request for the funding from the Sheriff's Office, that money is then transferred into the detention center budget, Zaleski said. If the full amount of funding is not used, the money then becomes surplus money unspent in Fiscal Year 2016.
The cost of housing an inmate in Allegany is $45 per day, Hardinger told the Carroll County Times in August.
"It's money well spent," Hardinger said.