State inmates are slowly being brought back to the Logan County Detention Center with an expected total of 60-plus by Monday. This move will increase revenue back into the jail and also open up the inmate work-release program that was temporarily halted when Jailer Phil Gregory shipped out 67 state inmates to other jails the weekend of March 22 due to overcrowding and pressure from the Department of Corrections.

Gregory is bringing them back after the fiscal court approved his request to hire five additional positions at the jail.

"I feel I can handle bringing back the state inmates now when I have enough help to watch them," said Gregory to the ND&L.

Gregory requested the additional positions at the jail last month but was only granted two with a redistribution of the part-time budget. The second-term jailer requested the other three during the Tuesday, April 9 meeting and was granted the request by the court but not before several minutes of discussion beforehand.

Magistrate Robert Chyle made the motion Tuesday to allow the three positions (two for the floor and one in administrative) to join the already approved two, saying if it would save Gregory from having to pay $80,000 in overtime per year at the jail it would be worth it.

"How many more do you need so we won't have that overtime?" asked Chyle. "If it will cut out most of the overtime, I'll make the motion. I probably won't get a second." But Chyle did, with magistrate Barry Joe Wright making it.

"I'll second the motion. I said I wouldn't, but let's move on," said Wright adding, "The motion would be easier to pass if the state side were full. If we find this costs the taxpayers we will need to revisit it."

Gregory mentioned there were 7,154 bookings into the detention center from January 2016 through April 2019. Leave hours earned by employees including sick, vacation, and military from January 2016 through February 2019 totaled 8,765.

"My employees are suffering burnout," said Gregory adding that was only one of the reasons he was asking for more help. Safety is the main issue, according to the jailer who reported he runs four deputies per shift with one in the control center, two on the county side and one on the state side.

A state inmate is someone who is guilty of a felony, has been sentenced and has been classified by the state. The state pays $31.34 per day per "state" inmate to the county for their stay in Logan's jail. County inmates are those who are awaiting the judicial process and their stay is paid for from local tax dollars. The classified state inmates and county inmates are housed on separate sides of the jail.

"We are sitting on a "powder keg" down there (jail) due to the overcrowding issues on the county side and that is where I need the help," said the jailer.

Magistrate Thomas Bouldin told Gregory he was willing to work with him, hoping that Gregory would bring back some of the state inmates he shipped off two weeks ago.

"We need to work together with Phil and I hope you (Gregory) will work with us on bringing the state inmates back. This was a hard pill to swallow losing that revenue," said Bouldin. "I'm going to work with you if you say you need it."

Gregory assured Bouldin he would do all he could to raise the state inmate population and continue to work with the DOC on moving the 55 unclassified state inmates out of the county side of the jail, which is causing the overcrowding.

Magistrate Wright has contacted the DOC asking what the hold up was on classifying those inmates waiting on the county side of the jail. He was assured the department would look into the situation and get back with him.

Bouldin told the jailer when he worked on his budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year to try and find the $140,000-$180,000 it will cost to bring on the additional staff. "You need to find some savings in other areas," said Bouldin.

The ND&L published an article in 2002 showing an interesting trend of overcrowding at the detention center and the threat of removing state inmates as a result. Some of that article is as follows:

Overcrowding at the Logan County Detention Center may make it easier for the state to remove some paying customers, officials believe. "Unless the county can develop a realistic plan to reduce the jail population, the Department of Corrections will be forced to begin removing state inmates from the jail to reduce overcrowding," a Nov. 26 letter concludes.

Jailer Bill Jenkins told Logan Fiscal Court there were 153 inmates when the detention center was inspected. The detention center officially is a 128-bed facility. Of that number, 48 beds are in a dormitory-style restricted setting with the rest in 'secure' beds. Currently, an area designed to hold 75 to 80 inmates is averaging between 90 and 105.

Jenkins said that when he became jailer in 1996, the average inmate population was 27. By the time the move was made to the new facility some three years later, that number had grown to 90. Now the average is well over 130.

Those numbers don't tell the entire story either since not all inmates can qualify for the dormitory section. Those who aren't classified for less supervision have to go into the secure section.

"When you have 12 to 16 people in a cell designed for 8, you've got discipline problems," Jenkins said.

Today in 2019, the detention center is certified to hold 162 inmates. Jailer Gregory increased the bed capacity on the state side soon after he was elected. The jail overcrowding has sparked the court to hire an engineer to perform a fesability study on the jail and come back with options on how to generate more room.