Overcrowded jail could cost Penobscot County over $2 million

Overcrowded jails becoming expensive issue

BANGOR, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The Penobscot County Jail has struggled with overcrowding for years -- but finding ways to temporarily fix it comes with a hefty price tag.

The 157 capacity jail holds over 200 inmates on a daily basis. Many times those waiting to be brought through the booking area will have to sit and wait for long periods of time until space is made available. 

"It's one of those areas that we have to watch constantly," Penobscot County Sheriff Troy Morton said. "Its a dangerous area, dangerous for the staff, dangerous for the inmates."

However, the problem doesn't end after bookings. Once an inmate has been checked, they must be placed into a cell of their own. This can be a real challenge since certain individuals are not allowed near others depending on their crime. They also have to take into account if that person may have certain medical needs or if they are. detoxing and will need extra supervision. 

"When you're overcrowded you have limited space on how to split folks like this up," Sheriff Morton said. "Many of the people who come in have complex issues -- It's kind of a chess game of moving people around."

So what can be done? One option is to send inmates to nearby county jails that have openings, but that can become expensive. "We'll spend several million dollars just boarding out inmates to other counties which totally doesn't make sense for Penobscot county." Sheriff Morton said.
 
Another is expansion -- the jail recently purchased the YMCA building next to the property. However, even that is still in the drawing board phase. "The planning stages are still going to take us a year or two away, so what do we do in the meantime," Sheriff Morton said. "We're over crowded today and we have to address those issues today."

Sheriff Morton believes a solution can be found, but it needs to involve all members of the criminal justice system.... not just the staff at his jail.

"We have to remember that the jail and corrections is part of the criminal justice system and that the system only works when we are all communicating." Sheriff Morton said.

© 2017 WCSH-TV


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