AUGUSTA-Legislators met early Tuesday in Augusta to discuss funding for county jails.
According to state officials, funding the county jails has been an issue for years.
It’s a problem they say is not going away.
“I think we’ve reached a time now where everyone has said, okay what we’ve done in the past just isn’t working. And so now we’re going to take a real comprehensive look at the system and see what’s the best way to fund it,” said Sheriff Joel Merry of Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office.
While legislators spent Tuesday speaking with sheriffs from all over the state about funding, officials say a big factor is recidivism.
“We are locking up folks who are struggling with mental health issues and we’re locking up folks who are struggling with mental health disorders. They come in, they come out, they come in, they come out,” says Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee Chair Charlotte Warren.
Sheriff Merry says the costs associated with running a jail are increasing, in part due to issues with staffing, sentencing length and treatment facilities for inmates.
“Every year all of our sheriffs across the state spends their entire spring here at the legislature trying to hope they get money to fund their jails. And they don’t’ get to say ‘no we’re not going to take that person’, they have take every inmate is brought to them,” Warren says.
Sheriffs and lawmakers say they will be using these next couple months before the next session to find a solution that has the right balance between state funding and local property taxes to fund the jails.