Bryan County Sues State Over Inmate Funding - - No One Gets You Closer

Bryan County Sues State Over Inmate Funding


DURANT, OK -- Bryan County officials claim the county is getting short-changed when it comes to housing convicted criminals, and now they are taking their outrage to court.

Many inmates have already been convicted of a crime that is serious enough to send them to prison, but for months, they wait in the Bryan County Jail.

"The $27 per day is not enough money to provide food clothing, housing, pay the utility bills on the jail," says commissioner Monty Montgomery of District 1.

Montgomery says Oklahoma's Department of Corrections is not paying the county enough to keep convicted criminals here. Now, county commissioners are suing the state, saying it is illegal for them to have to use property, or "ad valorem," tax money to pay for prisoners.

"We argue that the only way to fairly find a number that says how much it costs you to keep an inmate is take your total cost for operating the facility, and divide that by how ever many inmates you have in that jail," says Montgomery.

With a new jail addition under construction, Montgomery says he is afraid the state will be even more apt to leave inmates here, and at $40 per day, he says it just costs too much.

"The more room we have in our county jail, the more inmates the state is inclined to leave in our jail, and the more money we use," says Montgomery.

The jail addition is set to be finished soon, and the county also uses an Auxiliary Jail. Some residents say that commissioners seem to have a good case.

"The state needs to recognize that even though they're inmates they've got to have stuff as well," says Kingston resident Latisha Kimray.

"We need the money to feed them and keep them in jail, but everybody needs to stop doing crime so we don't have to worry about that," says Durant resident Beckie Cheek.

According to the Department of Corrections, the legislature set the $27 figure several years ago. In their response in court, the state says Bryan County has not proven their costs are any higher than that. The lawsuit was filed in June in Oklahoma County and a ruling is expected soon.