FARMINGTON — Franklin County representatives plan to testify Monday before a state legislative committee on why the Franklin County Detention Center should return to its former status as a full-service jail
On July 1, 2009, the state took over the county jail system. It reduced the Franklin County jail to a 72-hour holding facility. If people in custody cannot make bail within three days, they are taken to Somerset County Jail in Madison.
Sen. Thomas Saviello, R-Wilton, has introduced a bill, LD 238, "To designate the jail in Franklin County as a jail rather than a holding facility.” The 126th Legislature's Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee will hold a public hearing on it at 10 a.m. Monday, Feb. 25, in Room 436 at the State House in Augusta.
Franklin County Sheriff Scott Nichols Sr. said he, Saviello and jail Manager Doug Blauvelt will testify on the need to return the jail to its former full-service status.
Franklin County commissioners voted unanimously in August 2012 to request a change of mission for the Farmington jail, proposing to the state Board of Corrections that the Franklin County jail be returned to its full-time operation.
Proponents of returning the jail to full-use status say the 2009 changes have displaced those in custody from their families and defense lawyers and have increased transportation costs to the county.
"It is not saving the county any taxpayer money,” Blauvelt said last year.
The county still raises the same amount of money from taxpayers, $1.6 million, that it did in 2008. The operational budget has ranged from about $800,000 to $1.1 million since the change was implemented and the rest is sent to the state, county authorities said. The county spent 96.6 percent of the $1.1 million during 2011-12, Clerk Julie Magoon said in 2012.
The jail had housed as many as 54 inmates prior to 2009. The maximum capacity was 30 inmates and the jail averaged about that many prior to 2009, Blauvelt previously said.
“We're losing the benefits of having inmates,” Blauvelt had said.
Pre-release inmates helped out around the jail by mowing the grass and tending a garden, among other things, he said. The food from the garden was donated to food pantries.
When the jail was full-time, inmate labor saved the municipalities about $50,000 a year. They mowed cemeteries, worked at the horse rescue farms and in the community garden.
The goal of the Franklin County jail is to improve inmates through education and counseling, Blauvelt said. The jail no longer has those programs to offer people because they stay such a short time.