Considering the economic issues facing Harlan County, like the current downturn in the coal industry and the scaling back of coal severance funds, it may surprise some to discover the Harlan County Detention Center may break even for the fiscal year.
According to Harlan County Judge-Executive Dan Mosley, it is an accomplishment for a jail in the state of Kentucky to break even.
Mosley said during a recent fiscal court meeting the Harlan County Detention Center is on track to end the fiscal year with an increased revenue of over $400,000.
Harlan County Jailer B.J. Burkhart explained funds obtained through housing state inmates is largely responsible for the jail’s increased revenue.
“The key is that we now house 170 state inmates on average, compared to 100 in years past,” Burkhart said. “We are getting state inmates from jails all over the state, from counties that respect the fact if they sent them to us, the inmate will be working a manual labor job until released. We have managed to keep those numbers steady from July to December of last year, housing an average of 160 state inmates.”
Burkhart said they hope to keep the number of state inmates at or above 170 for an entire fiscal year, which will have the jail operating at top efficiency.
“Just the fact that we may break even with B.J.’s first budget is amazing news,” said Harlan County Detention Center Chief Deputy Derrick Moore. “When B.J. took office, the first six months saw us trying to manage what was left from the previous year’s budget, and a lot of B.J.’s plans for the future had to be put on hold until July 2015. Just looking at what has been done in a short amount of time is exciting.”
According to Burkhart, maintaining 170 state inmates has led to increased work release numbers of about 60, working for the county five days a week.
“We’ve added nine inmates cutting cemeteries, parks and county roads, a fifth van of females who have picked up over 5,000 bags of litter and trash across the county since July 2015, as well as a crew of inmates whose sole duty is to work in the garden,” said Burkhart. “We’ve also expanded the garden from 10 to 13 acres this year, with hopes of expanding every year until we no longer can.”
Burkhart said it has always been his goal to operate at no cost to the county.
“I always hoped it could be done, but it was untested waters for us,” Burkhart said. “We devised a plan from the beginning, before I ever took office. A lot of how we operate now were ideas that we believed in, like using technology to generate more profit while spending less, as well as just guiding us to run more efficient. I take this job seriously and I take tax payers’ money seriously. We can’t look into the future and see what is ahead of us but we are going to try to keep doing better every year.”
Burkhart said achieving increased revenue has been a group effort.
“Being able to work so well with all five magistrates, the Harlan County judge-executive and the treasurer to get our budget to where it needs to be, and our dependency on County Attorney Fred Busroe and the Commonwealth Attorney team of Parker Boggs and Jonathan Lee is a vital part of what has made this new approach at the jail successful so far,” said Burkhart.
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-909-4132 or on Twitter @joe_hde.