FARMINGTON — County commissioners voted Tuesday to submit a letter to accept a change in the mission of the county jail, making it a prerelease center in addition to a 72-hour holding facility.
Irv Faunce, a member of the state Board of Corrections, will inform the state board of the support for the change.
The state changed the mission of the facility from a full-service jail to a holding facility on July 1, 2009, when the state took over jails.
Since the change, there have been many requests for inmate workers to help in communities, Sheriff Dennis Pike said.
Regardless of whether the Franklin County Detention Center stays open, county taxpayers will continue to have to contribute $1.6 million to run the jail, Pike said Tuesday.
Franklin County had run an inmate work service program that saved communities and organizations thousands of dollars. Inmates in good standing worked on county property and in several towns and with organizations doing a variety of jobs. Those ran from lawn mowing to construction to road work and snow removal.
The proposed prerelease would house inmates finishing out their sentences.
Jail Manager Doug Blauvelt’s and Pike’s proposal required eight to 10 beds and an additional staff member to manage the program. The jail already has plenty of room, beds and clothing, and lots of people seeking inmate labor.
According to letters submitted to the county in support of reinstating such a program last year, Jay had used inmate labor that accounted for nearly 155 hours and savings to the town of $1,416 for work in cemeteries.
The county used labor for upkeep of cemeteries in unorganized territories and general maintenance at the courthouse.
The town of Farmington had requested 2,600 man-hours of inmate labor for public works and cemeteries last year. The value to the town was to be a savings of $18,850.
Wilton used inmates to paint the public safety building, town office as well for picking up trash along the sides of the road and cleaning town parking lots.
Inmates also helped out the Double B Equine Rescue operation putting in more than 2,500 hours of labor from 2007 to 2009.
Brenda Green, co-owner of the Industry horse farm, said Wednesday that she missed the help and is having difficulty trying to keep the place going without the added volunteer labor.
Faunce said that the average daily population at the jail last year was two people.
Town managers and law enforcement officials have told him, Faunce said, that whatever they do, keep the jail open. It’s the booking center for people arrested and if the jail wasn’t there, it would be a longer transport for police to another jail that would accept Franklin County inmates.
“I think we need to be creative in our thinking,” Faunce said. “We need to make that detention center an asset and a resource.”
Commission Chairman Gary McGrane of Jay raised concerns over potential higher costs and that it would be an uphill battle trying to get the state to invest funds to do it. There are limited funds available, he said, and the state just keeps whittling them down.
Faunce also explained to commissioners that the Board of Corrections is seriously looking into going to video arraignment of inmates across the state as savings on transportation and eliminating potential safety risks.
Many of the courts in the state already have the equipment, but in some cases it has not been turned on.
The corrections board has an investment fund and that is where the money would come from, he said. It would take about $13,000 to get the equipment into the Farmington detention center.