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Jail house rock$ Fed's prisoners paying the bills

Monday, June 09, 2014 - Updated: 10:14 AM

By NICOLE ANTONUCCI

nicole.antonucci@recordernews.com

FONDA -- An initiative by the Montgomery County Sheriff's office to house federal inmates at the county jail is generating more revenues than originally anticipated.

County Executive Matthew Ossenfort said Thursday that the housing of federal inmates during the past two months has resulted in nearly $280,000 in additional revenue for the county.

"Sheriff Michael Amato and Undersheriff Peter Vroman have done a great job generating additional revenue, at a time when the county can use every extra dollar earned to maximize services and keep costs reasonable for taxpayers," Ossenfort said. "I applaud the extra effort, especially from Undersheriff Vroman, who has utilized his resources as a retired U.S. marshal to help the county. I hope the sheriff continues to think outside of the box."

The department generated $151,685 in May, nearly covering the entire cost of maintaining the facility. The jail currently houses more than 45 federal inmates. Housing a federal inmate earns the county $115 per day, which translates in the neighborhood of $5,000 in additional daily revenue.

This brings the total revenues generated this year to approximately $580,000, with $300,000 generated between Jan. 1 and April 1.

"I'm proud of my staff at the jail," Amato said. "This nontraditional way of thinking differently can go a long way when you add up the results. My jail staff, including civilians, have handled the work and dealt with the many issues that housing federal inmates generates very well."

Amato has also looked at other ways to generate revenue, including charging inmates, who want to watch television, the electric bill to cover that expense. Additionally, the jail has started selling extra sandwiches to inmates, a portion of the cost going to the county. In April alone, this netted $1,157, more than 30 percent of which is remaining in Montgomery County. Amato hopes to expand this program in the next few weeks, to increase revenues further.

"Right now the program is one day a week and we want to expand it to two days a week," he said. "This is not only a profit program but it also a tool for handling inmates. The policy is if you order a sandwich and you do something wrong before you get the sandwich then you will lose that money and the sandwich. It is working very well."

Amato has used a portion of the additional revenue for critical upgrades in the department including software in the civil office, security cameras and the fingerprinting system.

Last month, Amato had appeared before the county legislature seeking $160,000 for the improvements, which are the first phase of a three-year initiative to upgrade the facility.

"I gave them a percentage of money that I wanted for projects this year and I have pretty much made that money for them already," he said. "Anything above the money they gave me would be profit for the county."

     

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