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DOC needs to answer questions

The state Department of Corrections (DOC) is pulling the rug out from under the Clinton County Correctional Facility with what we deem too short of notice.

With $1.2 million being jerked from county coffers for 2020 because the state decided it will no longer send parole violators here, the county is left with having to try to make up that amount just as it crafts its budgets for 2020.

The state and county signed an agreement dated July 24, 2018, for the state to house inmates at the prison in McElhattan. But according to a DOC letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Express, the state agency “… wishes to terminate the agreement pursuant to section 2(B) of the agreement and this letter serves as notice under that section. The agreement shall be terminated effective Jan. 4, 2020,” the letter reads. It’s signed by Daniel D. McIntyre, director, Bureau of Community Corrections.

There are some frustrating elements and questions to this:

– How long of a term was the Memorandum of Understanding between the state and county for housing inmates? (The Express has submitted a Right to Know request to the county for a copy of the entire MOU.)

– It appears that, since the DOC letter is dated Oct. 4, 2019 and the termination is requested to be Jan. 4, 2020, there must be a 3-month notice of termination required under the agreement. Why isn’t that notice to terminate requirement longer considering so much is at stake?

According to the DOC’s own, most recent inmate population report, it had jurisdiction over approximately 45,999 inmates at state, county and federal prisons or centers as of Oct. 31, 2019.

The report says that the average combined percent of capacity at those facilities was 96.9%. Eleven state prisons are listed as being over capacity.

So why then — with state institutions at capacity– is there a need to yank inmates out of here?

We understand the DOC is doing the same thing in Lawrence County, where the New Castle News newspaper reports that the inmate population has dropped by 100 and that county is losing $1 million in prison revenue. We understand Clinton, Lawrence and two other counties are where the state has or intends to stop sending inmates who are typically non-violent parole violators.

We’re confident Clinton County officials, including prison Warden Angela Hoover, are investing strategies to improve the local prison’s finances while also coming up with talking points to engage the DOC. Local officials also may be working to pick up more federal detainees, detainees from other counties, closing cell blocks and reducing cost by personnel adjustments through attrition to reduce the prison’s financial drag on taxpayers.

The DOC impact short-term is a rise in property taxes in Clinton County in 2020 of 0.3 of a mill, which should produce about $650,000 — or half of what the prison will lose.

A three-months’ notice of termination is too short, in our opinion.

It doesn’t give the county sufficent time to pose alternatives. We also suggest that any notice of termination be required by agreement at the beginning of the state’s fiscal year at July 1.

The DOC needs to provide specific, clear reasoning for its decision.

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