Penobscot County Sheriff seeks money for crowded jail | News

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Penobscot County Sheriff seeks money for crowded jail

BANGOR, Maine (NEWS CENTER)-- Too many inmates and too few beds, that's the problem facing several county jails here in Mane. The Penobscot County Jail currently houses more than 200 inmates and its capacity is 157. One solution would be to transfer the overflow of inmates to other county jails and board them there. But the sheriff says that costs money that the Penobscot County Jail doesn't have.

A new law has given control of county jails back to the county and allows them to see their budgets. But that means Penobscot County Sheriff Troy Morton can see that his jail is already more than $440,000 in the hole for the year.

"And that is not one dollar set aside to pay other counties to house Penobscot county inmates," Morton said. "There are no funds to pay those other counties. So why would they want to take inmates from other counties and not be funded?"

Another way to free up space would be to move inmates more quickly through the court system, but one of the biggest issues is that 67% of the more than 200 currently jailed inmates are awaiting trial, due to a bottleneck in the court system.

"People are going to get a prison sentence that haven't even gotten to the point where they're either going to have a trial or plead guilty, and they need to be pushed along and they're not being pushed along," said Penobscot District Attorney Chris Almy.

Almy understands the jail's overcrowding issues and knows that severe backlogging in the courts is a contributor. But he also said improving the system is a matter of money.

"When you have lower taxes, you have less courts, you have less police, and so when you have less judicial time, then you have less time to deal with criminals," he said.

There is no guarantee the legislature will consider a solution or added funding, but with that said, it doesn't meet again until the beginning of 2016. Morton says he can't wait that long for something to be done.

"My overcrowding problem is today."