The Androscoggin County Jail in Auburn
AUBURN, Maine -- (NEWS CENTER) Maine's 15 county jails are in a funding crisis - and at least one may close in two weeks as a result.
Androscoggin County Sheriff Guy Desjardins says he will have to close mid-May unless the state sends him $184,000 for this quarter. He needs it to make payroll. If he closes the jail, he will have to find beds at other facilities for 151 inmates, and lay off 56 employees, including 43 deputies.
The State Board of Corrections says they do not have the money to pay.
Desjardins blames the state's unique funding system: instead of having counties pay for jails, Maine capped the amount counties pay through property taxes in 2008 - giving homeowners a break. The money is pooled and doled out at the state level by the Board of Corrections. In exchange, the state agreed to pay additional amounts jails would need.
The Board of Corrections last week told Sheriffs they can only fund about half of what was budgeted for this quarter.
"Local law enforcement are still going to make arrests," says Sheriff Desjardins. "You can't let a felon go. If its a domestic abuse, an armed robbery, if its a murder case - we have three individuals in our jail right now for murder - we have to set up a contingency plan. I've got about 2 weeks to do that. Where would they go? No idea. That's why I'm asking for direction from the Governor."
Last Thursday, Desjardins sent a letter to Governor Paul LePage detailing his dilemna. In it he said, "Our budget shortfall is not due to over expenditures, but rather to the inability of the BOC to make their scheduled quarterly payment. I woud ask for your help in any way."
Androscoggin County is not alone. Each of the state's 15 county jails need some funds. Collectively the jails need $1.2 million to keep running - and that is just for the net two months.
The Governor has called all of the state's Sheriffs to Augusta Tuesday for a summit to try and address the issue.