SKOWHEGAN — Somerset County commissioners on Wednesday approved an agreement with Waldo County to lease beds at the Somerset County Jail in East Madison to house Waldo County inmates.

The exercise block is empty as the pod is cleared for a new group of inmates Wednesday at the Somerset County Jail in East Madison. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

The vote was unanimous, 5-0.

The agreement, which is to start July 1, the first day of the new fiscal year, calls for the leasing of up to 35 beds at the Somerset facility at an annual cost to Waldo County of $830,375, paid to Somerset. That money will go into the jail operations budget. Waldo County will cover transportation costs and medical services to the inmates, Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster said in an interview Wednesday at the jail.

“I’m excited about this partnership with Waldo County,” Lancaster said. “I think it will be good for Waldo County, and it will be good for the jail and the taxpayers of Somerset County.”

Lancaster and Jail Administrator Major Cory Swope said the jail has four pods with five separate housing areas, including a “special management area” and a women’s section. The jail opened in October 2008, vacating the 1895 stone and steel jail in downtown Skowhegan.

The jail’s population as of Wednesday was 99 inmates, including female prisoners. Another 50 people are on release through the community corrections program and not housed at the jail, which Lancaster said saves the county money on housing expenses.

The capacity at the jail is about 234 people, but the comfort level is about 192 inmates, he said. The jail’s annual operating budget is about $7 million.

A cell that holds two prisoners remains vacant Wednesday as the Somerset County Jail in East Madison awaits prisoner transfers. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

There currently are 31 federal prisoners being housed and 68 in-county inmates, he said. The federal government pays roughly $90 per day per inmate.

The move to accept inmates from out of the county is a departure for Lancaster, who said that when he was elected in 2015 he thought it wouldn’t be fair to Somerset County taxpayers to accept out-of-county prisoners and to pay the daily expenses without some form of compensation.

The agreement reached with Waldo County Sheriff Jeffrey Trafton and the county commissioners there cover that compensation, Lancaster said.

“Other than the occasional swap — sometimes if we have conflicts or other situations where we will trade with another county — we have not housed out-of-county inmates,” the sheriff said.

Lancaster said the Waldo County jail is a 72-hour holding facility, one of only two or three in the state.

After a person is arrested and arraigned in court, he or she is processed at the holding jail and then transferred to another jail to await trial, or if sentenced, to serve the time.

“I met with Sheriff Trafton and the chairman of the county commissioners in Waldo County and had a conversation about boarding Waldo County inmates,” Lancaster said. “As part of their operational budget, they board their inmates. They were in agreement to board with Somerset.”

Swope said Waldo County is basically leasing the beds in Somerset County for a fixed amount. The inmates from Waldo County previously were sent to the Two Bridges Correctional Facility in Wiscassett.

Deputy Teresa Brown, the Somerset County community corrections supervisor, is leaving after 17 years to become the administrative assistant to the police chief in Winslow. Morning Sentinel photo by Doug Harlow

In a related subject Wednesday, county commissioners accepted the resignation of Deputy Teresa Brown, the community corrections supervisor, and agreed to post the job to find a replacement.

Brown, who has been with the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office for 17 years, will be taking over as administrative assistant to the police chief in Winslow. In Somerset County Brown, 43, monitored people who were on bail, making sure they met the conditions of their release. She also performed the electronic monitoring program for domestic violence offenders and supervised people who were attending the county drug court, all as part of the Somerset County Community Corrections program.

She said she is leaving to go to “a little bit slower position, which I’m kind of ready for” in Winslow, but the move does not come with a pay increase for her.

Lancaster said Brown will be missed.

“That position is very valuable,” he said. “Part of the program is home checks. With her, I can theoretically put more people out on home release, reducing the (jail) population and ensure that people are being compliant with the rules that are imposed by the court, so I don’t have to inconvenience the local police departments or my patrol staff because I have someone who can do that job.

“She was a great asset. She’ll be tough to replace.”

 

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow


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