PARIS — Jail officials reiterated to Oxford County commissioners Tuesday their concerns with the facility’s new status as a 72-hour holding center.

Capt. Ernest Martin, jail administrator, said the jail is averaging eight inmates per day, higher than the five per day projected when it changed to a 72-hour holding facility. The change was made July 1 after state officials determined that 80 percent of inmates at the jail were released within the first three days of their arrest.

 Under the jail’s new mission, inmates who are sentenced to longer than three days or cannot make bail after their arrest are taken to the Androscoggin or Cumberland county jails in Auburn and Portland, respectively.

 Martin said the transportation of inmates has led to higher costs, as well as the need to leave less staff at the jail while officers go to other locations to transport prisoners. He said Tuesday’s schedule included the transportation of inmates from the Androscoggin County Jail in Auburn, the Somerset County Jail in Skowhegan, and the Twin Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset.

“This is becoming commonplace,” Martin said.

Sheriff Wayne Gallant said the original plan was for inmates to appear in the Lewiston District Court when the South Paris court was unavailable for initial appearances. However, Gallant said the judicial branch has asked that inmates instead be taken to district courts in Rumford, a 70-mile round trip, or Farmington, a 140-mile round trip.

Martin said the $11,600 annual budget for medical expenses has already been exceeded. He said one inmate was recently sent to the intensive care unit, and estimated that the bill for that service would be $15,000 to $20,000.

In addition, Martin said the food costs are estimated to be $38,000 for the year, which is more than the $32,000 estimate. The jail contracts with Market Square Restaurant, which bills $6 per meal. With more inmates than expected, the food budget is higher, he said.

Commissioner Steve Merrill asked Martin and Gallant to compile their information so he could present them to the Maine County Commissioners Association.

“I’d like to have some of these scenarios to throw out in a forum,” he said.

Commissioners heard some of the same concerns at their June meeting. At that meeting, the county’s auditor also told commissioners that there was a $31,000 deficit in the jail budget at the end of 2008.


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