Allen County Sheriff Ken Fries this month will seek another $400,000 to provide health care to jail inmates, and says he may need another $400,000 before the end of the year.
“The inmates get better care than the taxpayers,” said Fries, who has had to ask County Council for similar appropriations in the past when medical costs exceeded the amount budgeted to cover them. But when Fries asks Council for $400,000 on Aug. 16, he will be speaking to a group that has asked him to cut about $1 million from his requested 2013 budget – a budget that doesn't include the extra $800,000 Fries said he may need this year.
“(Council members) say, 'Cut, cut, cut,' but they don't understand the things I have to do. It costs money to take care of inmates,” Fries said.
This is not the first time Fries has had to ask for more money for inmates' medical care, which is mandated by state law. The department budgeted $740,000 in 2010 but asked for another $229,000 – the first time in four years it had requested an additional appropriation. But the same thing happened again in 2011, when the $780,000 budget proved inadequate and another $350,000 was requested in July.
At the time, officials acknowledged that the soaring costs influenced some law-enforcement decisions. A man convicted of a minor crime, for example, was jailed only on weekends so the county would not have to pay for his dialysis treatments. Charges were also dropped against a terminally ill man convicted of drug dealing.
Fries' proposed 2013 budget of about $22 million represents an increase of about $679,000 over the current budget. But in an effort to conserve its rainy day fund, County Council last month told departments they should not only avoid increases but should cut current spending by 2.5 percent. Those directives would shave more than $1 million from Fries' proposed 2013 budget, although Fries could appeal the cuts later this year.