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Pulaski County jail plans to house federal inmates for funds

WINAMAC, Ind. - Pulaski County could soon see a boost in its bank account—all thanks to the jail. The Pulaski County Sheriff is waiting for the federal government to approve a contract in which it would pay the jail to house federal inmates.

The sheriff signed the contract Tuesday and shipped it off to Washington D.C. for approval.

With a door closing, the Pulaski County jail sees a window of opportunity.

“If the cell’s empty, it’s empty. You know, why couldn’t we put somebody in there?” said Pulaski County Sheriff Jeff Richwine.

Thanks to a deal with the federal government, Pulaski County’s empty jail cells could soon fill up.

“They said, ‘man, we’ve been calling every county north of Indianapolis, and you’re the only ones we’ve run into that’s got space,’” said Sheriff Richwine.

If they decide to use the space, the prisons will be paying rent.

“It’s $51 a day, and then the federal government requires two jailers every time people are transported and they pay $18 an hour for each guy or each gal, and the mileage is 17 cents a mile for the vehicle,” said the sheriff.

If the federal government approves the contract, the Pulaski County jail could be looking at housing 20 to 30 new federal inmates in their cells, which could earn the county $1.5 million in extra revenue over the next three years.

Pulaski has already been housing inmates from Howard County since the end of 2016—at a rate of $35 a day.

With up to 25 of their inmates at any given time, he says the jail ended up earning $30 thousand to $35 thousand a month.

All of that revenue feeds into the county’s general fund.

“I think all counties are looking for more money, so this is a way for them to get it,” said Sheriff Richwine.

“If we wanted to use some of that money, we’d have to ask for additional from the council and commissioners,” he said.

If the deal goes through, he says he hopes to devote some of the money to a new jail van, similar to one they recently purchased.

The jail commander says they made at least 800 transports last year.

That number about doubles the amount they made in 2015, so he says another van would really help.

Their newest one holds ten inmates at a time, and transporting them only comprises a fraction of the cost of holding them in jail.

“It’s not cheap to keep a person in jail,” said Sheriff Richwine.

So for once, he says filling their beds could be just what the county needs.

The President of the Board of Commissioners said they just found out about the contract a couple days ago, so they haven’t devised a specific plan.

However, he mentioned that the courthouse could use some improvements.

The sheriff said the contract should be officially approved sometime next week.

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